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"A Philosophical Inquiry Into the 
Origin of our Ideas of the SUBLIME 
and BEAUTIFUL, etc." 

IIo author seeas to have noted this 
as one of the books read by Lincoln, 
but there is the best of evidence 
that the title belongs in "Lincoln's 
Library," as his own copy of the 
book nay be seen at the Chicago 'his- 
torical Library, 
Lincoln's copy was issued, in 18C1 . 

A/-^ fia^xj^z^ 

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itontron : 




Hewlett and Briramer, Printers, 
10, Frith Street, Solio. 


Introduction. On Taste 




I. Jiovelty 31 

II. Pain and Pleasure ... 33 

III. The Diflerence between the removal 

of Pain and positive Pleasure . 36 

IV. Of Delight and Pleasure, as opposed 

to each other .... 39 

V. Joy and Grief 41 

yi. Of the Passions ^vhich belong to Self- 
preservation .... 44 
VII. Of the Sublime .... 45 
VIII. Of the Passions which belong to So- 
ciety 46 

IX. The final cause of the difference be- 
tween tlie Passions belonging to 
Self-preservation, and those which 
regard the Society of the Sexes a 48^ 



X. Of Beauty 50 

XI. Society and Solitude ... 52 

XII. Sympathy, Imitation, and Ambition . 53 

XIII. Sympathy 54 

XIV. The effects of Sympathy in the dis- 

tresses of others .... 56 

XV. Of the effects of Tragedy . . . 58 

XVI. Imitation 61 

XVII. Ambition 63 

XVIII. Recapitulation 65 

XIX. The Conclusion .... 67 


I. Of the Passion caused by the Sublime 


II. Terror 


III. Obscurity 


IV. Of the difference between Clearness 

and Obscurity, with regard to the 

Passions .... 


[IV.] The same subject continued 


V. Power .... 


VI. Privation .... 


VII. Vastness .... 


VIII. InBnity .... 


IX. Succession and Uniformity 


X. Magnitude in Building . 


XI. Infinity in pleasing Objects 




XII. Difficulty 106 

XIII. Magnificence ib. 

XIV, Light . ... . . 110 

XV. Light in Building . . . . 113 

XVI. Colour considered as productive of the 

Sublime .... 114 

XVII. Sound and Loudness . . . 115 

XVIII. Suddenness 116 

XIX. Intermitting 117 

XX. The Cries of Animals . . , 118 

XXL Smell andTaste. Bitters and Stenches 119 

XXII. Feeling. Pain .... 122 


I. Of Beauty 125 

II. Proportion not the cause of Beauty in 

Vegetables . . . . 127 

III. Proportion not the cause of Beauty in 

Animals 133 

IV. Proportion not the cause of Beauty in 

the Human Species . . . 135 

V. Proportion farther considered . 144 

VI. Fitness not the cause of Beautj' . 148 

VII. The real effects of Fitness . . 152 

VIII. The Recapitulation .... 156 

IX. Perfection not the cause of Beauty . 157 



X. How far the idea of Beauty maj' be 
applied to the Qualities of the 


XI. How far the idea of Beauty may be 
applied to Virtue 

XII. The real cause of Beauty 

XIII. Beautiful Objects small . 

XIV. Smoothness 
XV. Gradual Variation . 

XVI. Delicacy .... 
XVll. Beauty in Colour 
XVIII. Recapitulation . 
XIX. The Physiognomy 
XX. The Eye .... 
XXI. Ugliness . • . . 
XXII. Grace .... 

XXIII. Elegance and Speciousness 

XXIV. The Beautiful in Feeling 
XXV. The Beautiful in Sound 

XXVI. Taste and Smell 
XXVII. The Sublime and Beautiful compared 





I. Of the efficient Cause of the Sublime 

and Beautiful . . . . 185 

II. Association 187 

III. Cause of Pain and Fear ... 189 


IV. Cause of Pain and Fear, continued . 
V. How the Sublime is produced 
VI. How Pain can be a cause of Deliffbt 
VII. Exercise necessary for the finer Organs 
VIII. AVby things not dangerous sometimes 
produce a passion like Terror 
IX. Why Visual Objects of great dimen- 
sions are Sublime 
X. Unity, why requisite to Vastness 
XI. The artificial Infinite 
XII. The Vibrations must be similar 

XIII. The eflFects of Succession in visual 

objects explained 

XIV. Locke's opinion concerning Darkness 

considered .... 
XV. Darkness terrible in its own nature 
XVI. Why Darkness is terrible 
XVII. The eflects of Blackness . 
XVIII. The effects of Blackness moderated 
XIX. The physical cause of Love 
XX. Why Smoothness is Beautiful . 
XXI. Sweetness, its nature 
XXII. Sweetness relaxing . 

XXIII. Variation, why Beautiful . 

XXIV. Concerning Smallness 
XXV. Of Colour . . 










I. OfWords 239 

II. The common Effect of Poetry, not by 

raising Ideas of things . . 240 

III. General Words before Ideas . . 243 

tV. The eflFect of Words . . 245 
V. Examples that Words may affect 

without raising- Images . . 247 

VI. Poetry not strictly an imitative art . 256 

VII. How Words influence the Passions . ib. 


I HAVE endeavoured to make this edition some- 
thing more full and satisfactory than the first. I 
have sought with the utmost care, and read with 
equal attention, everything which has appeared in 
public against my opinions ; I have taken advan- 
tage of the candid liberty of my friends ; and if by 
these means I have been better enabled to disco- 
ver the imperfections of the work, the indulgence 
it has received, imperfect as it was, furnished me 
with a new motive to spare no reasonable pains 
for its improvement. Though I have not found 
sufficient reason, or what appeared tome sufficient. 


for making any material change in my theory, I 
have found it necessary in many places to explain, 
illustrate and enforce it. I have prefixed an in- 
troductory discourse concerning Taste : it is a 
matter curious in itself; and it leads naturally 
enough to the principal inquiry. This, with the other 
explanations, has made the work considerably 
larger; and by increasing its bulk, has, I am afraid, 
added to its faults ; so that, notwithstanding all 
my attention, it may stand in need of a yet greater 
share of indulgence than it required at its first 

They who are accustomed to studies of this na- 
ture will expect, and they will allow too, for many 
faults. They know that many of the objects of our 
inquiry are in themselves obscure and intricate ; 
and that many others have been rendered so by 
affected refinements or false learning : they know 
that there are many impediments in the subject, 
in the prejudices of others, and even in our own, 
that render it a matter of no small difficulty to 


show in a clear light the genuine face of nature. 
They know that whilst the mind is intent on the 
general scheme of things, some particular parts 
must be neglected ; that we must often submit the 
style to the matter, and frequently give up the praise 
of elegance, satisfied with being clear. 

The characters of nature are legible, it is true ; 
but they are not plain enough to enable those who 
run, to read them. We must make use of a cau- 
tious, I had almost said a timorous method of 
proceeding. We must not attempt to fly, when 
we can scarcely pretend to creep. In consi- 
dering any complex matter, we ought to examine 
every distinct ingredient in the composition one by 
one ; and reduce everything to the utmost simpli- 
city ; since the condition of our nature binds us to 
a strict law and very narrow limits. We ought af- 
terwards to re-examine the principles by the eff'ect 
of the composition, as well as the composition by 
that of the principles. We ought to compare our 
subject with things of a similar nature, and even 


with things of a contrary nature ; for discoveries 
may be, and often are, made by the contrast, which 
would escape us on the single view. The greater 
number of the comparisons we make, the more ge- 
neral and the more certain our knowledge is like to 
prove, as built upon a more extensive and perfect 

If an inquiry thus carefully conducted, should 
fail at last of discovering the truth, it may answer 
an end perhaps as useful, in discovering to us the 
weakness of our own understanding. If it does 
not make us knowing, it may make us modest. If 
it does not preserve us from error, it may at least 
from the spirit of error ; and may make us cautious 
of pronouncing with positiveness or with haste, 
when so much labour may end in so much uncer- 

I could wish that in examining this theory, the 
same method were pursued which I endeavoured 
to observe in forming it. The objections, in my 


opinion, ought to be proposed, either to the several 
principles as they are distinctly considered, or to 
the justness of the conclusion which is drawn from 
them. But it is common to pass over both the 
premises and conclusion in silence, and to produce 
as an objection, some poetical passage which does 
not seem easily accounted for upon the principles 
I endeavour to establish. This manner of proceed- 
ing I should think very improper. The task would 
be infinite, if we could establish no principle until 
we had previously unravelled the complex texture 
of every image or description to be found in poets 
and orators. And though we should never be able 
to reconcile the effect of such images to our prin- 
ciples, this can never overturn the theory itself, 
whilst it is founded on certain and indisputable 
facts. A theory founded on experiment and not 
assumed, is always good for so much as it explains. 
Our inability to push it indefinitely is no argument 
at all against it. This inability may be owing to 
our ignorance of some necessary mediums; to a 
want of proper application ; to many other causes 


besides a defect in the principles we employ. In 
reality, the subject requires a much closer atten- 
tion, than we dare claim from our manner of 
treating it. 

If it should not appear on the face of the work, 
I must caution the reader against imagining that I 
intended a full dissertation on the Sublime and 
Beautiful. My inquiry went no farther than to the 
origin of these ideas. If the qualities which I have 
ranged under the head of the Sublime be all found 
consistent with each other, and all different from 
those which I place under the head of Beauty ; 
and if those which compose the class of the Beau- 
tiful have the same consistency with themselves, 
and the same opposition to those which are classed 
under the denomination of Sublime, I am in little 
pain whether anybody chooses to follow the name 
I give them or not, provided he allows that what 
I dispose under different heads are in reality dif- 
ferent things in nature. The use I make of the 
words may he blamed, as too confined or too 


extended; my meaning cannot well be misunder- 

To conclude : whatever progress may be made 
towards the discovery of truth in this matter, I do 
not repent the pains I have taken in it. The 
use of such inquiries may be very considerable. 
Whatever turns the soul inward on itself, tends to 
concentre its forces, and to fit it for greater and 
stronger flights of science. By looking into physical 
causes, our minds are opened and enlarged : and 
in this pursuit, whether we take or whether we lose 
our game, the chase is certainly of service. Cicero, 
true as he was to the academic philosophy, and 
consequently led to reject the certainty of physical, 
as of every other kind of knowledge, yet freely 
confesses its great importance to the human under- 
standing ; ''Est animorum ingeniommque nostrorum 
" naturale quoddam quasi pabulum coimderatio con- 
" templatioque naturceJ' If we can direct the lights 
we derive from such exalted speculations, upon 
the humbler field of the imagination, whilst we ir- 


vestigate the springs, and trace the courses of our 
passions, we may not only communicate to the taste 
a sort of philosophical solidity, but we may reflect 
back on the severer sciences some of the graces 
and elegancies of taste, without which the greatest 
proficiency in those sciences will always have the 
appearance of something illiberal. 



ON a superficial view, we may seem to differ very 
widely from each other in our reasonings, and no 
less in our pleasures : but notwithstanding this dif- 
ference, which I think to be rather apparent, than 
real, it is probable that the standard both of reason 
and taste is the same in all human creatures. For 
if there were not some principles of judgment, as 
well as of sentiment, common to all mankind, no 
hold could possibly be taken either on their reason 
or their passions, sufficient to maintain the ordinary 
correspondence of life. It appears indeed to be 
generally acknowledged, that with regard to truth 
and falsehood there is something fixed. We find 
people in their disputes continually appealing to 
certam tests and standards, which are allowed on 
all sides, and are supposed to be established in 



On Taste. 

our common nature. But there is not the same 
obvious concurrence in any uniform or settled prin- 
ciples which relate to taste. It is even commonly 
supposed that this delicate and aerial faculty, which 
seems too volatile to endure even the chains of a 
definition, cannot be properly tried by any test, nor 
regulated by any standard. There is so continual 
a call for the exercise of the reasoning faculty, 
and it is so much strengthened by perpetual con- 
tention, that certain maxims of right reason seem 
to be tacitly settled amongst the most ignorant. 
The learned have improved on this rude science, 
and reduced those maxims into a system, if taste 
has not been so happily cultivated, it was not that 
the subject was barren, but that the labourers 
were few or negligent ; for to say the truth, there 
are not the same interesting motives to impel us to 
fix the one, which urge us to ascertain the other. 
And after all, if men diff'er in their opinion con- 
cerning such matters, their diff'erence is not attended 
with the same important consequences ; else I make 
no doubt but that the logic of taste, if I may be 
allowed the expression, might very possibly be as 
well digested, and we may come to discuss mat- 
ters of this nature with as much certainty, as those 


which seem more immediately within the province 
of mere reason. And indeed, it is very necessary, 
at the entrance into such an enquiry as our present, 
to make this point as clear as possible ; for if taste 
has no fixed principles, if the imagination is not 
affected according to some invariable and certain 
laws, our labour is like to be employed to very 
little purpose ; as it must be judged an useless, if 
not an absurd undertaking, to lay down rules for 
caprice, and to set up for a legislator of whims and 

The term taste, like all other figurative terms, 
is not extremely accurate; the thing which we 
understand by it, is far from a simple and deter- 
minate idea in the minds of most men, and it is 
therefore liable to uncertainty and confusion. I 
have no great opinion of a definition, the celebrated 
remedy for the cure of this disorder. For when 
we define, we seem in danger of circumscribing 
nature within the bounds of our own notions, which 
we often take up by hazard, or embrace on trust, 
or form out of a limited and partial consideration 
of the object before us, instead of extending our 
ideas to take in all that nature comprehends, 
according to her manner of combining. We are 


On Taste. 

limited in our inquiry by the strict laws to which 
we have submitted at our setting out. 

Circa vilem patulumque mm'ahimur orbenif 

Unde pudor proferre pedem vefat aut operis lex. 

A definition may be very exact, and yet go but a 
very little way towards informing us of the nature 
of the thing defined ; but let the virtue of a defini- 
tion be what it will, in the order of things, it seems 
rather to follow than to precede our inquiry, of 
which it ought to be considered as the result. It 
must be acknowledged that the methods of disquisi- 
tion and teaching may be sometimes different, and 
on very good reason undoubtedly; but, formypart^ 
I am convinced that the method of teaching which 
approaches most nearly to the method of investiga- 
tion, is incomparably the best; since, not content 
with serving up a few barren and lifeless truths, it 
leads to the stock on which they grew, it tends to 
set the reader himself in the track of invention, and 
to direct him into those paths in which the author 
has made his own discoveries, if he should be so 
happy, as to have made any that are valuable. 

But to cut off all pretence for cavilling, I mean 
by the word taste, no more than that faculty or 


Ou Taste. 

those faculties of the mind, which are affected 
with, or which form a judgment of, the works of 
imagination and the elegant arts. This is, I think, 
the most general idea of that word, and what is 
the least, connected with any particular theory. 
And my point in this inquiry is, to find whether 
there are any principles, on which the imagination 
is aflfected, so common to all, so grounded and 
certain, as to supply the means of reasoning satis- 
factorily about them. And such principles of taste 
I fancy there are; however paradoxical it may 
seem to those, who on a superficial view imagine 
that there is so great a diversity of tastes, both in 
kind and degree, that nothing can be more indeter- 

All the natural powers in man, which I know, 
that are conversant about external objects, are the 
senses; the imagination ; and the judgment. Aad 
first with regard to the senses. We do and we 
must suppose, that as the conformation of their 
organs are nearly or altogether the same in all men, 
so the manner of perceiving external objects is 
in all men the same, or with little difference. We 
are satisfied that what appears to be light to one 
eye, appears light to another; that what seems 


On Taste. 

sweet to one palate is sweet to another ; that what 
is dark and bitter to this man, is likewise dark and 
bitter to that ; and we conclude in the same manner 
of great and little, hard and soft, hot and cold, 
rough and smooth; and indeed of all tlie natural 
qualities and affections of bodies. If we suffer 
ourselves to imagine, that their senses present to 
different men different images of things, this scep- 
tical proceeding will make every sort of reasoning 
on every subject vain and frivolous, even that scep- 
tical reasoning itself which had persuaded us to 
entertain a doubt concerning the agreement of our 
perceptions. But as there will be little doubt that 
bodies present similar images to the whole species, 
it must necessarily be allowed, that the pleasures 
and the pains which every object excites in one 
man, it must raise in all mankind, whilst it ope- 
rates, naturally, simply, and by its proper powers 
only ; for if we deny this, we must imagine that 
the same cause operating in the same manner, and 
on subjects of the same kind, will produce different 
effects, which would be highly absurd. Let us 
first consider this point in the sense of taste, and 
the rather, as the faculty in question has taken its 
name from that sense. All men are agreed to call 


On Taste. 

vinegar sour, honey sweet, and aloes bitter; and 
as they are all agreed in finding these qualities in 
those objects, they do not in the least difter con- 
cerning their effects with regard to pleasure and 
pain. They all concur in calling sweetness plea- 
sant, and sourness and bitterness unpleasant. Here 
there is no diversity in their sentiments ; and that 
there is not, appears fully from the consent of all 
men in the metaphors which are taken from the 
sense of taste. A sour temper, bitter expressions, 
bitter curses, a bitter fate, are terms well and 
strongly understood by all. And we are altogether 
as well understood when we say, a sweet disposi- 
tion, a sweet person, a sweet condition, and the 
like. It is confessed, that custom and some other 
causes, have made many deviations from the natu- 
ral pleasures or pains which belong to these several 
tastes; but then the power of distinguishing be- 
tween the natural and the acquired relish remains 
to the very last. A man frequently comes to prefer 
the taste of tobacco to that of sugar, and the 
iiavour of vinegar to that of milk ; but this makes 
no confusion in tastes, whilst he is sensible that 
the tobacco and vinegar are not sweet, and whilst 
he knows that habit alone has reconciled his palate 


to these alien pleasures. Even with such a person 
we may speak, and with sufficient precision, con- 
cerning tastes. But should any man be found 
who declares, that to him tobacco has a taste like 
sugar, and that he cannot distinguish between 
milk and vinegar; or that tobacco and vinegar 
are sweet, milk bitter, and sugar sour ; we imme- 
diately conclude that the organs of this man are 
out of order, and that his palate is utterly vitiated. 
We are as far from conferring with such a person 
upon tastes, as from reasoning concerning the re- 
lations of quantity with one who should deny that 
all the parts together were equal to the whole. 
We do not call a man of this kind wrong in his 
notions, but absolutely mad. Exceptions of this 
sort, in either way, do not at all impeach our ge- 
neral rule, nor make us conclude that men have 
various principles concerning the relations of 
quantity, or the taste of things. So that when it is 
said, taste cannot be disputed, it can only mean, 
that no one can strictly answer what pleasure or 
pain some particular man may find from the taste 
of some particular thing. This indeed cannot be 
disputed ; but we may dispute, and with sufficient 
clearness too, concerning the things which are 


On Taste. 

naturally pleasing or disagreeable to the sense. 
But when we talk of any peculiar or acquired 
relish, then we must know the habits, the preju- 
dices, or the distempers of this particular man, 
and we must draw our conclusion from those. 

This agreement of mankind is not confined to the 
taste solely. The principle of pleasure derived 
from sight is the same in all. Light is more plea- 
sing than darkness. Summer, when the earth is 
clad in green, when the Heavens are serene and 
bright, is more agreeable than winter, when every 
thing makes a different appearance. I never re- 
member that anything beautiful, whether a man, 
a beast, a bird, or a plant, was ever shown, though 
it were to a hundred people, that they did not all 
immediately agree that it was beautiful, though 
some might have thought that it fell short of their 
expectation, or that other things were still finer. 
I believe no man thinks a goose to be more beau- 
tiful than a swan, or imagines that what they call 
a Friezland-hen excels a peacock. It must be 
observed too, that the pleasures of the sight are 
not near so complicated, and confused, and altered 
by unnatural habits and associations, as the plea- 
sures of the taste are; because the pleasures of 


the sight more commonly acquiesce in themselves ; 
and are not so often altered by considerations 
which are independent of the sight itself. But 
things do not spontaneously present themselves to 
the palate as they do to the sight ; they are gene- 
rally applied to it, either as food or medicine ; and 
from the qualities vrhich they possess for nutritive 
or medicinal purposes, they often form the palate 
by degrees, and by force of these associations. 
Thus opium is pleasing to Turks, on account of the 
agreeable delirium it produces. Tobacco is the' 
delight of Dutchmen, as it diffuses a torpor and 
pleasing stupefaction. Fermented spirits please 
our common people, because they banish care, and 
all consideration of future or present evils. All of 
these would lie absolutely neglected if their pro- 
perties had originally gone no further than the 
taste ; but all these, together with tea and cofFee> 
and some other things, have passed from the apo- 
thecary's shop to our tables, and were taken for 
health, long before they were thought of for plea- 
sure. The effect of the drug has made us use it 
frequently: and frequent use, combined with the 
agreeable effect, has made the taste itself at last 
agreeable. But this does not in the least perplex 


Ou Taste. 

our reasoning ; because we distinguish to the last 
the acquired from the natural relish. In describing 
the taste of an unknown fruit, you would scarcely 
say that it had a sweet and pleasant flavour like 
tobacco, opium, or garlic, although you spoke to 
those who were in the constant use of these drugs, 
and had great pleasure in them. There is in all 
men a sufficient remembrance of the original na- 
tural causes of pleasure, to enable them to bring all 
things offered to their senses to that standard, and 
to regulate their feelings and opinions by it. Sup- 
pose one who had so vitiated his palate as to take 
more pleasure in the taste of opium than in that of 
butter or honey, to be presented with a bolus of 
squills; there is hardly any doubt but that he 
would prefer the butter or honey to this nauseous 
morsel, or to any other bitter drug to which he 
had not been accustomed ; which proves that his 
palate was naturally like that of other men in all 
things, that it is still like the palate of other men 
in many things, and only vitiated in some parti- 
cular points. For in judging of any new thing, 
even of a taste similar to that which he has been 
formed by habit to like, he finds his palate af- 
fected in the natural manner, and on the common 


On Taste. 

principles. Thus the pleasure of all the senses, 
of the sight, and even of the taste, that most ambi- 
guous of the senses, is the same in all, high and 
low, learned and unlearned. 

Besides the ideas, with their annexed pains and 
pleasures, which are presented by the sense ; the 
mind of man possesses a sort of creative power of 
its own ; either in representing at pleasure the ima- 
ges of things in the order and manner in which they 
were received by the senses, or in combining those 
images in a new manner, and according to a differ- 
ent order. This power is called imagination ; and 
to this belongs whatever is called wit, fancy, inven- 
tion, and the like. But it must be observed, that 
the power of the imagination is incapable of pro- 
ducing any thing absolutely new ; it can only vary 
the disposition of those ideas which it has received 
from the senses. Now the imagination is the most 
extensive province of pleasure and pain, as it is the 
region of our fears and our hopes, and of all our 
passions that are connected with them ; and what- 
ever is calculated to affect the imagination with 
these commanding ideas, by force of any original 
natural impression, must have the same power 
pretty equally over all men. For since the imagi- 


On Taste. 

nation is only the representation of the senses, it 
can only be pleased or displeased with the images, 
from the same principle on which the sense is plea- 
sed or displeased with the realities; and conse- 
quently, there must be just as close an agreement 
in the imaginations as in the senses of men. A 
little attention will convince us that this must of 
necessity be the case. 

But in the imagination, besides the pain or plea- 
sure arising from the properties of the natural object, 
a pleasure is perceived from the resemblance which 
the imitation has to the original : the imagination, 
I conceive, can have no pleasure but what results 
from one or other of these causes. And these 
causes operate pretty uniformly upon all men, 
because they operate by principles in nature, and 
which are not derived from any particular habits or 
advantages. Mr Locke very justly and finely ob- 
serves of wit, that it is chiefly conversant in tra- 
cing resemblances : he remarks at the same time, 
that the business of judgment is rather in finding 
differences. It may perhaps appear, on this sup- 
position, that there is no material distinction be- 
tween the wit and the judgment, as they both seem 
to result from different operations of the same fa^- 


Oa Taste. 

culty of comparing. But in reality, whether they 
are or are not dependant on the same power of the 
mind, they differ so very materially in many re- 
spects, that a perfect union of wit and judgment is 
one of the rarest things in the world. When two 
distinct objects are unlike to each other, it is only 
what we expect ; things are in their common way ; 
and therefore they make no impression on the 
imagination ; but when two distinct objects have a 
resemblance, we are struck, we attend to them, and 
we are pleased. The mind of man has naturally a 
far greater alacrity and satisfaction in tracing 
resemblances than in searching for differences : be- 
cause by making resemblances we produce 7ieiv 
images; we unite, we create, we enlarge our stock ; 
but in making distinctions, we offer no food at all 
to the imagination ; the task itself is more severe 
and irksome, and what pleasure we derive from it 
is something of a negative and indirect nature. A 
piece of news is told me in the morning; this, 
merely as a piece of news, as a fact added to my 
stock, gives me some pleasure. In the evening I 
find there was nothing in it. What do I gain by 
this but the dissatisfaction to find that I had been 
imposed upon ? Hence it is that men are much more 


On Taste. 

naturally inclined to belief than to incredulity. 
And it is upon this principle, that the most igno- 
rant and barbarous nations have frequently excel- 
led in similitudes, comparisons, metaphors, and 
allegories, who have been weak and backward in 
distinguishing and sorting their ideas. And it is 
for a reason of this kind, that Homer and the 
oriental writers, though very fond of similitudes, 
and though they often strike out such as are truly 
admirable, they seldom take care to have them 
exact; that is, they are taken with the general 
resemblance, they paint it strongly, and they take 
no notice of the difference which may be found 
between the things compared. 

Now, as the pleasure of resemblance is that 
which principally flatters the imagination, all men 
are nearly equal in this point, as far as their know- 
ledge of the things represented or compared ex- 
tends. The principle of this knowledge is very 
much accidental, as it depends upon experience 
and observation, and not on the strength or weak- 
ness of any natural faculty ; and it is from this dif- 
ference in knowledge, that what we commonly, 
though with no great exactness, call a difference in 
taste proceeds. A man to whom sculpture is new, 


On Taste. 

sees a barber's block, or some ordinary piece of 
statuary; he is immediately struck and pleased, 
because he sees something like a human figure ; 
and, entirely taken up with this likeness, he does 
not at all attend to its defects. No person, I be- 
lieve, at the first time of seeing a piece of imita- 
tion ever did. Some time after, we suppose that 
this novice lights upon a more artificial work of the 
same nature ; he now begins to look with contempt 
on what he admired at first ; not that he admired . 
it even then for its unlikeliness to a man, but for 
that general though inaccurate resemblance which 
it bore to the human figure. What he admired at 
different times in these so different figures, is 
strictly the same; and though his knowledge is 
improved, his taste is not altered. Hitherto his 
mistake was from a want of knowledge in art, 
and this arose from his inexperience ; but he may 
still be deficient fropi a want of knowledge in 
nature. For it is possible that the man in ques- 
tion may stop here, and that the master-piece of a 
great hand may please him no more than the mid- 
dling performance of a vulgar artist ; and this not 
for want of better or higher relish, but because all 
Bien do not observe with sufficient accuracy on the 


Oil Taste. 

human figure to enable them to judge properly of 
an imitation of it. And that the critical taste does 
not depend upon a superior principle in men, but 
upon superior knowledge, may appear from several 
instances. The story of the ancient painter and 
the shoemaker is very well known. The shoe- 
maker set the painter right with regard to some mis- 
takes he had made in the shoe of one of his figures, 
and which the painter, who had not made such ac- 
curate observations on shoes, and was content with 
a general resemblance, had never observed. But 
this was no impeachment to the taste of the painter ; 
it only showed some want of knowledge in the art 
of making shoes. Let us imagine, that an anato- 
mist had come into the painter's working-room. 
His piece is in general well done, the figure in 
question in a good attitude, and the parts well ad- 
justed to their various movements ; yet the anato- 
mist, critical in his art, may observe the swell of 
some muscle not quite just in the peculiar action 
of the figure. Here the anatomist observes what 
the painter had not observed ; and he passes by 
what the shoemaker had remarked. But a want 
of the last critical knowledge in anatomy no more 
reflected -on the natural good taste of the painter, 


On Taste. 

or of any common observer of his piece, than the 
want of an exact knowledge in the formation of a 
shoe. A line piece of a decollateil head of St. John 
the Baptist was shown to a Turkish emperor ; he 
praised many things, but he observed one defect; 
he observed that the skin did not shrink from the 
wounded part of the neck. The sultan on this oc- 
casion, though his observation was very just, dis- 
covered no more natural taste than the painter who 
executed this piece, or than a thousand European 
connoisseurs, who probably never would have 
made the same observation. His Turkish majesty 
had indeed been well acquainted with that terrible 
spectacle, which the others could only have repre- 
sented in their imagination. On the subject of their 
dislike there is a difference between all these peo- 
ple, arising from the different kinds and degrees of 
their knowledge ; but there is something in com- 
mon to the painter, the shoemaker, the anatomist, 
and the Turkish emperor, the pleasure arising from 
a natural object, so far as each perceives it justly 
imitated; the satisfaction in seeing an agreeable 
figure; the sympathy proceeding from a striking 
and affecting incident. So far as taste is natural, 
it is nearly common to all. 


On Taste. 

In poetry, and other pieces of imagination, the 
same parity may be observed. It is true, that one 
man is charmed with Don Bellianis, and reads 
Virgil coldly : whilst another is transported with 
the Eneid, and leaves Don Bellianis to children. 
These two men seem to have a taste very different 
from each other ; but in fact, they differ very little. 
In both these pieces, which inspire such opposite 
sentiments, a tale exciting admiration is told ; both 
are full of action, both are passionate ; in both are 
voyages, battles, triumphs, and continual changes 
of fortune. The admirer of Don Bellianis perhaps 
does not understand the refined language of the 
Eneid, who, if it was degraded into the style of the 
Pilgrim's Progress, might feel it in all its energy, 
on the same principle which made him an admirer 
of Don Bellianis. 

In his favourite author he is not shocked with the 
continual breaches of probability, the confusion of 
times, the offences against manners, the trampling 
upon geography ; for he knows nothing of geogra- 
phy and chronology, and he has never examined 
the grounds of probability. He perhaps reads of a 
shipwreck on the coast of Bohemia : wholly taken 
up with so interesting an event, and only solicir 


tous for the fate of his hero, he is not in the least 
troubled at this extravagant blunder. For why 
should he be shocked at a shipwreck on the coast 
of Bohemia, who does not know but that Bohe- 
mia may be an island in the Atlantic ocean ? and 
after all, what reflection is this on the natural good 
taste of the person here supposed ? 

So far then as taste belongs to the imagination, 
its principle is the same in all men ; there is no dif- 
ference in the manner of their being affected, nor 
in the causes of the affection; but in the degree 
there is a difference, which arises from two causes 
principally ; either from a greater degree of natural 
sensibility, or from a closer and longer attention 
to the object. To illustrate this by the procedure 
of the senses, in which the same difference is found, 
let us suppose a very smooth marble table to be 
set before two men ; they both perceive it to be 
smooth, and they are both pleased with it because 
of this quality. So far they agree. But suppose 
another, and after that another table, the latter still 
smoother than the former, to be set before them. It 
is now very probable that these men, who are so 
agreed upon what is smooth, and in the pleasure 
from thence, will disagree when they come to settle 


On Taste. 

which table has the advantage in point of polish. 
Here is indeed the great difference between tastes, 
when men come to compare the excess or diminu- 
tion of things which are judged by degTee and not 
by measure. Xor is it easy, when such a diffe- 
rence arises, to settle the point, if the excess or 
diminution be not glaring. If we differ in opinion 
about two quantities, we can have recourse to a 
common measure, which may decide the question 
with the utmost exactness ; and this I take it is 
what gives mathematical knowledge a greater cer- 
tainty than any other. But in things «f^ hose excess 
is not judged by greater or smaller, as smoothness 
and roughness, hardness and softness, darkness 
and light, the shades of colours, all these are very 
easily distinguished when the difference is any way 
considerable, but not when it is minute, for want of 
some common measures, which perhaps may never 
come to be discovered. In these nice cases, sup- 
posing the acuteness of the sense equal, the greater 
attention and habit in such things will have the 
advantage. In the question about the tables, the 
marble-polisher will unquestionably determine the 
most accurately. But notwithstanding this want 
of a common measure for settling many disputes 


On Taste. 

relative to the senses, and their representative the 
imagination, we find that the principles are the 
same in all, and that there is no disagreement until 
we come to examine into the pre-eminence or dif- 
ference of things, which brings us within the pro- 
vince of the judgment. 

So long as we are conversant with the sensible 
qualities of things, hardly any more than the ima- 
gination seems concerned ; little more also than the 
imagination seems concerned when the passions 
are represeitted, because by the force of natural 
sympathy, they are felt in all men without any re- 
course to reasoning, and their justness recognized 
in every breast. Love, grief, fear, anger, joy, all 
these passions have in their turns affected every 
mind ; and they do not affect it in an arbitrary or 
casual manner, but upon certain, natural, and uni- 
form principles. But as many of the works of ima- 
gination are not confined to the representation of 
sensible objects, nor to efforts upon the passions, 
but extend themselves to the manners, the charac- 
ters, the actions, and designs of men, their relations, 
their virtues, and vices, they come within the pro- 
vince of the judgment, which is improved by atten- 
tion and by the habit of reasoning. All these make 


On Taste. 

a very considerable part of what are considered as 
the objects of taste ; and Horace sends us to the 
schools of philosophy and the world for our instruc- 
tion in them. Whatever certainty is to be acquired 
in morality and the science of life ; just the same 
degree of certainty have we in what relates to them, 
in works of imitation. Indeed it is for the most 
part in our skill in manners, and in the observances 
of time and place, and of decency in general, which 
is only to be learned in those shcools to which Ho- 
race recommends us, that what is called taste, by 
way of distinction, consists ; and which is in reality 
no other than a more refined judgment. On the 
whole, it appears to me, that what is called taste, 
in its most general acceptation, is not a simple idea, 
but is partly made up of a perception of the primary 
pleasures of sense, of the secondary pleasures of 
the imagination, and of the conclusions of the rea- 
soning faculty, concerning the various relations of 
these, and concerning the human passions, manners, 
and actions. All this is requisite to form taste, and 
the ground-work of all these is the same in the hu- 
man mind ; for as the senses are the great originals 
of all our ideas, and consequently of all our plea- 
sures, if they are not uncertain and arbitrary, the 


On Taste. 

whole ground-work of taste is common to all, and 
therefore there is a sufficient foundation for a con- 
clusive reasoning on these matters. 

Whilst we consider taste merely according to its 
nature and species, we shall find its principles 
entirely uniform; but the degree in which these 
principles prevail, in the several individuals of 
mankind, is altogether as different as the principles 
themselves are similar. For sensibility and judg- 
ment, which are the qualities that compose what 
we commonly call a taste, vary exceedingly in 
various people. From a defect in the former of 
these qualities, arises a want of taste ; a weakness 
in the latter, constitutes a wrong or a bad one. 
There are some men formed with feelings so blunt, 
with tempers so cold and phlegmatic, that they can 
hardly be said to be awake during the whole course 
of their lives. Upon such persons, the most 
striking objects make but a faint and obscure im- 
pression. There are others so continually in the 
agitation of gross and merely sensual pleasures, or 
so occupied in the low drudgery of avarice, or so 
heated in the chace of honours and distinction, 
that their minds, which had been used continually 
to the storms of these violent and tempestuous 


On Taste. 

passions, can hardly be put in motion by the deli- 
cate and refined play of the imagination. These men, 
though from a different cause, become as stupid 
and insensible as the former ; but whenever either 
of these happen to be struck with any natural ele- 
gance or greatness, or with these qualities in any 
work of art, they are moved upon the same prin- 

The cause of a wrong taste is a defect of judg- 
ment. And this may arise from a natural weakness 
of understanding ( ift whatever the strength of that 
faculty may consist) or, which is much more com- 
monly the case, it may arise from a want of pro- 
per and well-directed exercise, which alone can 
make it strong and ready. Besides that ignorance, 
inattention, prejudice, rashness, levity, obstinacy, 
in short, all those passions, and all those vices, 
which pervert the judgment in other matters, pre- 
judice it no less in this its more refined and elegant 
province. These causes produce diff"erent opinions 
upon everything which is an object of the under- 
standing, without inducing us to suppose that there 
are no settled principles of reason. And indeed 
on the whole one may observe, that there is rather 
less difference upon matters of taste among man- 


On Taste. 

kind than upon most of those which depend upon 
the naked reason, and that men are far better agreed 
on the excellence of a description in Virgil, than 
on the truth or falsehood of a theory of Aristotle. 

A rectitude of judgment in the arts, which may 
be called a good taste, does in a great measure 
depend upon sensibility ; because if the mind has 
no bent to the pleasures of the imagination, it will 
never apply itself sufficiently to works of that 
species to acquire a competent knowledge in them. 
But though a degree of sensibility is requisite to 
form a good judgment, yet a good judgment does 
not necessarily arise from a quick sensibility of 
pleasure ; it frequently happens that a very poor 
judge, merely by force of a greater complexional 
sensibility, is more affected by a very poor piece, 
than the best judge by the most perfect: for as 
everything new,extraordinary, grand, or passionate, 
is well calculated to affect such a person, and that 
the faults do not affect him, his pleasure is more 
pure and unmixed ; and as it is merely a pleasure 
of the imagination, it is much higher than any 
which is derived from a rectitude of the judgment ; 
the judgment is for the greater part employed in 
throwing stumbling-blocks in the way of the ima- 


On Taste. 

gination, in dissipating the scenes of its enchant- 
ment, and in tying us down to the disagreeable 
yoke of our reason; for almost the only pleasure 
that men have in judging better than others, con- 
sists in a sort of conscious pride and superiority, 
which arises from thinking rightly ; but then, this 
is an indirect pleasure, a pleasure which does not 
immediately result from the object which is under 
contemplation. In the morning of our days, when 
the senses are unworn and tender, when the whole 
man is awake in every part, and the gloss of no- 
velty fresh upon all the objects that surround us, 
how lively at that time are our sensations, but how 
false and inaccurate the judgments we form of 
things ? I despair of ever receiving the same degree 
of pleasure from the most excellent performances 
of genius which I felt at that age, from pieces which 
my present judgment regards as trifling and con- 
temptible. Every trivial cause of pleasure is apt 
to affect the man of too sanguine a complexion : his 
appetite is too keen to suffer his taste to be deli- 
cate ; and he is in all respects what Ovid says of 
himself in love : — 

Molle meum levibus cor est violabile telis, 
Et semper causa est, cur ego semper amem. 


On Taste. 

One of this character can never be a refined judge ; 
never what the comic poet calls elegans formarum 
spectator. The excellence and force of a composi- 
tion must always be imperfectly estimated from its 
effects on the minds of any, except we know the 
temper and character of those minds. The most 
powerful effects of poetry and music have been dis- 
played, and perhaps ara still displayed, where 
these arts are but in a very low and imperfect state. 
The rude hearer is affected by the principles which 
operate in these arts even in their rudest condition, 
and he is not skilful enough to perceive the defects. 
But as arts advance towards their perfection, the 
science of criticism advances with equal pace, and 
the pleasure of judges is frequently interrupted by 
the faults which are discovered in the most finished 

Before I leave this subject, 1 cannot help taking 
notice of an opinion which many persons entertain, 
as if the taste were a separate faculty of the mind, 
and distinct from the judgment and imagination ; a 
species of instinct, by which we are struck natu- 
rally, and at the first glance, without any previous 
reasoning, with the excellencies or the defects of a 
composition. So far as the imagination and the 


Ou Taste. 

passions are concerned, I believe it true, that the 
reason is little consulted; but where disposition, 
where decorum, where congruity are concerned, in 
short, wherever the best taste differs from the 
worst, I am convinced that the understanding ope- 
rates and nothing else ; and its operation is in rea- 
lity far from being always sudden, or, when it is 
sudden, it is often far from being right. Men of 
the best taste by consideration come frequently to 
change these early and precipitate judgments, 
which the mind, from its aversion to neutrality and 
doubt, loves to form on the spot. It is known that 
the taste (whatever it is) is improved exactly as we 
improve our judgment, by extending our know- 
ledge, by a steady attention to our object, and 
by frequent exercise. They who have not taken 
these methods, if their taste decides quickly, it is 
always uncertainly ; and their quickness is owing 
to their presumption and rashness, and not any 
hidden irradiation that in a moment dispels all 
darkness from their minds. But they who have 
cultivated that species of knowledge which makes 
the object of taste, by degrees and habitually attain 
not only a soundness, but a readiness of judgment, 
as men do by the same methods on all other occa- 


On Taste. 

sions. At first they are obliged to spell, but at 
last tbey read with ease and with celerity, but this 
celerity of its operation is no proof, that the taste 
is a distinct faculty. Nobody, I believe, has at- 
tended the course of a discussion, which turned 
upon matters within the sphere of mere naked 
reason, but must have observed the extreme readi- 
ness with which the whole process of the argument 
is carried on, the grounds discovered, the objec- 
tions raised answered, and conclusions drawn from 
premises, with a quickness altogether as great as 
the taste can be supposed to work with ; and yet 
where nothing but plain reason either is or can be 
suspected to operate. To multiply principles for 
every different appearance is useless, and unphilo- 
sophical too in a high degree. 

This matter might be pursued much farther ; but 
it is not the extent of the subject which must pre- 
scribe our bounds, for what subject does not branch 
out to infinity ? it is the nature of our particular 
scheme, and the single point of view in which we 
consider it, which ought to put a stop to our re- 









THE first and the simplest emotion which we dis- 
cover in the human mind, is curiosity. By curiosity 
I mean whatever desire we have for, or whatever 
pleasure we take in, novelty. We see children 
perpetually running from place to place to hunt out 
something new : they catch with great eagerness, 
and with very little choice, at whatever comes 
before them ; their attention is engaged by every- 
thing, because everything has, in that stage of life, 
the charm of novelty to recommend it. But as 
those things which engage us merely by their 



novelty, cannot attach us for any length of time, 
curiosity is the most superficial of all the affec- 
tions; it changes its object perpetually; it has an 
appetite which is very sharp, but very easily satis- 
fied ; and it has always an appearance of giddi- 
ness, restlessness and anxiety. Curiosity, from 
its nature, is a very active principle; it quickly 
runs over the greatest part of its objects, and soon 
exhausts the variety which is commonly to be met 
with in nature ; the same things make frequent re- 
turns, and they return with less and less of any 
agreeable effect. In short, the occurrences of life, 
by the time we come to know it a little, would be 
incapable of affecting the mind with any other sen- 
sations than those of loathing and weariness, if 
many things were not adapted to affect the mind 
by means of other powers besides novelty in them, 
and of other passions besides curiosity in ourselves. 
These powers and passions shall be considered in 
their place. But whatever these powers are, or 
upon what principle soever they affect the mind, 
it is absolutely necessary that they should not be 
exerted in those things which a daily vulgar use 
have brought into a stale unaffecting familiarity. 
Some degree of novelty must be one of the mate- 


Pain and Pleasure. 

rials in every instrument which works upon the 
mind ; and curiosity blends itself more or less with 
all our passions. 



IT seems then necessary towards moving the pas- 
sions of people advanced in life, to any consider- 
able degree, that the objects designed for that 
purpose, besides their being in some measure new, 
should be capable of exciting pain or pleasure 
from other causes. Pain and pleasure are simple 
ideas, incapable of definition. People are not 
liable to be mistaken in their feelings, but they 
are very frequently wrong in the names they give 
them, and in their reasonings about them. Many 
are of opinion, that pain arises necessarily from 
the removal of some pleasure ; as they think plea- 
sure does from the ceasing or diminution of some 
pain. For my part, I am rather inclined to ima- 
gine, that pain and pleasure, in their most simple 
and natural manner of affecting, are each of a po- 
sitive nature, and by no means necessarily depen- 
dant on each other for their existence. The human 


Pain and Pleasure. 

mind is often, and I think it is for the most part, 
in a state neither of pain nor pleasure, which I call 
a state of indifference. When I am carried from 
this state into a state of actual pleasure, it does 
not appear necessary that I should pass through 
the medium of any sort of pain. If in such a 
state of indifference, or ease, or tranquillity, or 
call it what you please, you were to be suddenly 
entertained with a concert of music ; or suppose 
some object of a fine shape, and bright lively co- 
lours, to be presented before you ; or imagine your 
smell is gratified with the fragrance of a rose; or 
if without any previous thirst you were to drink 
of some pleasant kind of wine, or to taste of some 
sweetmeat without being hungry ; in all the several 
senses, of hearing, smelling, and tasting, you un- 
doubtedly find a pleasure; yet if I inquire into 
the state of your mind previous to these gratifica- 
tions, yOu will hardly tell me that they found you 
in any kind of pain; or, having satisfied these 
several senses with their several pleasures, will 
you say that any pain has succeeded, though the 
pleasure is absolutely over ? Suppose, on the other 
hand, a man in the same state of indifference, to 
receive a violent blow, or to drink of some bitter 


Pain and Pleasure. 

potion, or to have his ears wounded with some 
harsh and grating sound; here is no removal of 
pleasure ; and yet here is felt, in every sense which 
is aflfected, a pain very distinguishable. It may be 
said, perhaps, that the pain in these cases had its 
rise from the removal of the pleasure which the 
man enjoyed before, though that pleasure was of 
so low a degree as to be perceived only by the 
removal. But this seems to me a subtilty, that is 
not discoverable in nature. For if, previous to 
the pain, I do not feel any actual pleasure, 1 have 
no reason to judge that any such thing exists ; 
since pleasure is only pleasure as it is felt. The 
same may be said of pain, and with equal reason. 
I can never persuade myself that pleasure and 
pain are mere relations, which can only exist as 
they are contrasted; but I think I can discern 
clearly that there are positive pains and pleasures 
which do not at all depend upon each other. No- 
thing is more certain to my own feelings than this. 
There is nothing which I can distinguish in my 
mind with more clearness than the three states, of 
indifference, of pleasure, and of pain. Every one 
of these I can perceive without any sort of idea 
of its relation to anything else. Caius is afflicted 


The Difference between the removal of Pain and positive Pleasure. 

with a fit of the cholic ; this man is actually in 
pain ; stretch Caius upon the rack, he will feel a 
much greater pain : but does this pain of the rack 
arise from the removal of any pleasure ? or is the 
fit of the cholic a pleasure or a pain just as we are 
pleased to consider it ? 



WE shall carry this proposition yet a step farther. 
We shall venture to propose, that pain and plea- 
sure are not only not necessarily dependant for 
their existence on their mutual diminution or re- 
moval, but that, in reality, the diminution, or 
ceasing of pleasure does not operate like positive 
pain ; and that the removal or diminution of pain, 
in its effect, has very little resemblance to posi- 
tive pleasure*. The former of these propositions 

* Mr. Locke (Essay on Human Understanding, J. ii. c. 
20. sec. 16.) thinks that the removal or lessening of a pain 
is considered and operates as a pleasure, and the loss or 
diminishing of pleasure as a pain. It is this opinion which 
we consider here. 


The Difference between the removal of Fain and positive Pleasure. 

will, I believe, be much more readily allowed than 
the latter; because it is very evident that plea- 
sure, when it has run its career, sets us down very 
nearly where it found us. Pleasure of every kind 
quickly satisfies ; and when it is over, we relapse 
into indifference, or rather we fall into a soft tran- 
quillity, which is tinged with the agreeable colour 
of the former sensation. I own it is not at first 
view so apparent, that the removal of a great pain 
does not resemble positive pleasure ; but let us re- 
collect in what state we have found our minds 
upon escaping some imminent danger, or on being 
released from the severity of some cruel pain. We 
have on such occasions found, if I am not much 
mistaken, the temper of our minds in a tenor very 
remote from that which attends the presence of 
positive pleasure ; we have found them in a state 
of much sobriety, impressed with a sense of awe, 
in a sort of tranquillity shadowed with horror. 
The fashion of the countenance and the gesture of 
the body on such occasions is so correspondent to 
this state of mind, that any person, a stranger to 
the cause of the appearance, would rather judge 
us under some consternation, than in the enjoy- 
ment of anything like positive pleasure. 


The Difference between the removal of Pain and positive Pleasure. 

rig ^ orav avd'^' am 'stvhivh Aa^ji, og' £vi Trar^Yi^ 
^cora KaraKTEivag, aXKov e^iftero ^n/xov, 
- Av^^og eg a(py£iou, Ba/x^og ^' cp^jE; Eia-o^ooovrag. 

Iliad 24. 

As when a wretch^ who, conscious of his crime. 
Pursued for murder from his native clime, 
Just gains some frontier , breathless, pale, amazed ; 
All gaze, all wonder! 

This striking appearance of the man whom Ho- 
mer supposes to have just escaped an imminent 
danger, the sort of mixed passion of terror and 
surprise, with which he affects the spectators, 
paints very strongly the manner in which we find 
ourselves affected upon occasions any way similar. 
For when we have suffered from any violent emo- 
tion, the mind naturally continues in something 
like the same condition, after the cause which first 
produced it has ceased to operate. The tossing 
of the sea remains after the storm ; and when this 
remain of horror has entirely subsided, all the 
passion which the accident raised, subsides along 
with it ; and the mind returns to its usual state of 
indifference. In short, pleasure (I mean anything 
in the inward sensation, or in the outward appear- 


Of Delight and Pleasure as opposed to each other. 

ance, like pleasure from a positive cause) has 
never, I imagine, its origin from the removal of 
pain or danger. 



BUT shall we therefore say, that the removal of 
pain or its diminution is always simply painful ? 
or affirm that the cessation or the lessening of 
pleasure is always attended itself with a pleasure ? 
By no means. What I advance is no more than 
this ; first, that there are pleasures and pains of a 
positive and independent nature ; and, secondly, 
that the feeling which result? from the ceasing or 
diminution of pain does not bear a sufficient resem- 
blance to positive pleasure, to have it considered 
as of the same nature, or to entitle it to be known 
by the same name; and, thirdly, that upon the 
same principle the removal or qualification of plea- 
sure has no resemblance to positive pain. It is 
certain that the former feeling (the removal or mo- 
deration of pain) has something in it far from dis- 
tressing or disagreeable in its nature. This feeling. 


Of Delight and Pleasare as opposed to each other. 

in many cases so agreeable, but in all so different 
from positive pleasure, has no name which I know ; 
but that hinders not its being a very real one, and 
very different from all others. It is most certain, 
that every species of satisfaction or pleasure, how 
different soever in its manner of affecting, is of a 
positive nature in the mind of him who feels it. 
The affection is undoubtedly positive; but the 
cause may be, as in this case it certainly is, a sort 
of privation. And it is very reasonable that we 
should distinguish by some term two things so dis- 
tinct in nature, as a pleasure that is such simply, 
and without any relation, from that pleasure which 
cannot exist without a relation, and that too a 
relation to pain. Very extraordinary it would be, 
if these affections, so distinguishable in their 
causes, so different in their effects, should be con- 
founded with each other, because vulgar use has 
ranged them under the same general title. When- 
ever I have occasion to speak of this species of 
relative pleasure, I call it delight; and I shall take 
the best care I can, to use that word in no other 
sense. I am satisfied the word is not commonly 
used in this appropriated signification; but I 
thought it better to take up a word already known, 


Joy and Grief. 

and to limit its signification, than to introduce a 
new one, which would not perhaps incorporate so 
well with the language. I should never have pre- 
sumed the least alteration in our words, if the 
nature of the language, framed for the purposes of 
business rather than those of philosophy, and the 
nature of my subject, that leads me out of the 
common track of discourse, did not in a manner 
necessitate me to it. I shall make use of this 
liberty with all possible caution. As I make use 
of the word delight to express the sensation which 
accompanies the removal of pain or danger, so 
when I speak of positive pleasure, I shall for the 
most part call it simply pleasure. 



IT must be observed, that the cessation of plea- 
sure affects the mind three ways. If it simply 
ceases, after having continued a proper time, the 
effect is indifference ; if it be abruptly broken off, 
there ensues an uneasy sense called disappointment ; 
if the object be so totally lost that there is no 
chance of enjoying it again, a passion arises in the 


Joy and Grief. 

mind, which is called grief. Now, there is none 
of these not even grief, which is the most violent, 
that I think has any resemblance to positive pain. 
The person who grieves, suffers his passion to 
grow upon him ; he indulges it, he loves it : but this 
never happens in the case of actual pain, which no 
man ever willingly endured for any considerable 
time. That grief should be willingly endured, 
though far from a simply pleasing sensation, is not 
so diflScult to be understood. It is the nature of grief 
to keep its object perpetually in its eye, to present it 
in its most pleasurable views, to repeat all the cir- 
cumstances that attend it, even to the last minute- 
ness; to go back to every particular enjoyment, to 
dwell upon each, and to find a thousand new per- 
fections in all, that were not sufficiently understood 
before ; in grief, the pleasure is still uppermost ; and 
the affliction we suffer has no resemblance to abso- 
lute pain, which is always odious, and which we 
endeavour to shake off as soon as possible. The 
Odyssey of Homer, which abounds with so many 
natural and affecting images, has none more strik- 
ing than those which Menelaus raises of the cala- 
mitous fate of his friends, and his own manner of 
feeling it. He owns, indeed, that he often gives 


Joy aud Grief. 

himself some intermission from such melancholy 
reflections ; but he obse^^ <js, too, that, melancholy 
as they are, they give him pleasure. 

HoXXaxig £V /xeya^OKTi KaOufXEVog y)/ji.ST&^oi(nv, 
Axxors fjLEV T£ you (p^eva te^tto/jlcci, aWors ^ avrs 
IlavofJLaC ai-^r\^og h Ko^og h^us^oio yooio. 

Still in short intervals of pleasing woe, 
Regardful of the friendly dues I oive, 
I to the glorious dead, for ever dear, 
Indulge the tribute of a grateful tear, 

Hom. Od. iv. 

On the other hand, when we recover our health, 
when we escape an imminent danger, is it with joy 
that we are aff'ected ? The sense on these occa- 
sions is far from that smooth and voluptuous satis- 
faction which the assured prospect of pleasure 
bestows. The delight which arises from the modi- 
fications of pain, confesses the stock from whence 
it sprung, in its solid, strong, and severe nature. 


Of the Passions which belong to Self-preservation. 



MOST of the ideas which are capable of making a 
powerful impression on the mind, whether simply 
of pain or pleasure, or of the modifications of those, 
may be reduced very nearly to these two heads, 
self-preservation and society ; to the ends of one or 
the other of which, all our passions are calculated 
to answer. Tlie passions which concern self-pre- 
servation, turn mostly on pain or danger. The ideas 
of pain J sickness, and death, fill the mind with strong 
emotions of horror: but life and health, though 
they put us in a capacity of being affected with 
pleasure, they make no such impression by the 
simple enjoyment. The passions therefore which 
are conversant about the preservation of the indi- 
vidual, turn chiefly on pain and danger, and they 
are the most powerful of all the passions. 


Of the Sublime. 



WHATEVER is fitted in any sort to excite the 
ideas of pain and danger; that is to say, whatever 
is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terri- 
ble objects, or operates in a manner analogous to 
terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is pro- 
ductive of the strongest emotion which the mind is 
capable of feeling. I say the strongest emotion, 
because I am satisfied the ideas of pain are much 
more powerful than those which enter on the part 
of pleasure. Without all doubt, the torments 
which we may be made to suffer, are much greater 
in their effect on the body and mind, than any plea- 
sures which the most learned voluptuary could 
suggest, or than the liveliest imagination, and the 
most sound and exquisitely sensible body, could 
enjoy. Nay, I am in great doubt whether any man 
could be found who would earn a life of the most 
perfect satisfaction, at the price of ending it in the 
torments, which justice inflicted in a few hours on 
the late unfortunate regicide in France. But as 
pain is stronger in its operation than pleasure, so 


Of the Passions which belong to Society. 

death is in general a much more affecting idea than 
pain ; because there are very few pains, however 
exquisite, which are not preferred to death ; nay, 
what-^generally makes pain itself, if I may say so, 
more painful, is, that it is considered as an emis- 
sary of this king of terrors. When danger or pain 
press too nearly they are incapable of giving anj^ 
delight, and are simply terrible ; but at certain dis- 
tances, and with certain modifications, they may 
be, and they are delightful, as we every day expe- 
rience. The cause of this I shall endeavour to in- 
vestigate hereafter. 



THE other head under which I class our passions, 
is that of society, which may be divided into two 
sorts. 1. The society of the sexes, which answers 
the purposes of propagation ; and next, that more 
general society, which we have with men, and with 
other animals, and v/hich we may in some sort be 
said to have even with the inanimate world. The 
passions belonging to the preservation of the indi- 
vidual, turn wholly on pain and danger; those 


Of the Passions which belong to Society. 

which belong to generation , have their origin in 
gratifications and pleasures ; the pleasure most di- 
rectly belonging to this purpose is of a lively cha- 
racter, rapturous and violent, and confessedly the 
highest pleasure of sense ; yet the absence of this 
so great an enjoyment, scarce amounts to an un- 
easiness ; and, except at particular times, I do not 
think it affects at all. When men describe in what 
manner they are affected by pain and danger, they 
do not dwell on the pleasure of health and the com- 
fort of security, and then lament the loss of these 
satisfactions ; the whole turns upon the actual pains 
and horrors which they endure. But if you listen 
to the complaints of a forsaken lover, you observe 
that he insists largely on the pleasures which he 
enjoyed or hoped to enjoy, and on the perfection of 
the object of his desires; it is the /oss which is 
always uppermost in his mind. The violent effects 
produced by love, which has sometimes been even 
wrought up to madness, is no objection to the rule 
which we seek to establish. When men have suf- 
fered their imaginations to be long affected with 
any idea, it so wholly engrosses them as to shut 
out by degrees almost every other, and to break 
down every partition of the mind which would 


The finnl cause of the Difference' between the Passions belonging to 

confine it. Any idea is sufficient for the purpose, 
as is evident from the infinite variety of causes, 
which give rise to madness ; but this at most can 
only prove that the passion of love is capable of 
producing very extraordinary effects, not that it* 
extraordinary emotions have any connection with 
positive pain. 



THE final cause of the difference in character 
between the passions which regard self-preser- 
vation and those which are directed to the multi- 
plication of the species, will illustrate the foregoing 
remarks yet further; and it is, I imagine, worthy 
of observation even upon its own account. As 
the performance of our duties of every kind de- 
pends upon life, and the performing them with 
vigour and efficacy depends upon health, we are 
very strongly affected with whatever threatens the 
destruction of either : but as we were not made to 


Self-preservation, and those which regard the Society of the Sexes. 

acquiesce in life and health, the simple enjoyment 
of them is not attended with any real pleasure, lest, 
satisfied with that, we should give ourselves over 
to indolence and inaction. On the other hand, 
the generation of mankind is a great purpose, and 
it is requisite that men should be animated to the 
pursuit of it by some great incentive. It is there- 
fore attended with a very high pleasure ; but, as 
it is by no means designed to be our constant bu- 
siness, it is not fit that the absence of this pleasure 
should be attended with any considerable pain. 
The difference between men and brutes in this 
point seems to be remarkable. Men are at all 
times pretty equally disposed to the pleasures of 
love, because they are to be guided by reason in 
the time and manner of indulging them. Had any 
great pain arisen from the want of this satisfac- 
tion, reason, I am afraid, would find great diffi- 
culties in the performance of its office. But brutes, 
who obey laws, in the execution of which their 
own reason has but little share, have their stated 
seasons ; at such times it is not improbable that 
the sensation from the want is very troublesome, 
because the end must be then answered, or missed 


Ou Beauty. 

in many, perhaps for ever; as the inclination 
returns only with its season. 



THE passion which belongs to generation, merely 
as such, is lust only. This is evident in brutes, 
whose passions are more unmixed, and which 
pursue their purposes more directly than ours. The 
only distinction they observe with regard to their 
mates, is that of sex. It is true, that they stick 
severally to their own species in preference to all 
others. But this preference, I imagine, does not 
arise from any sense of beauty which they find iu 
their species, as Mr. Addison supposes, but from 
a law of some other kind, to which they are sub- 
ject; and this we may fairly conclude, from their 
apparent want of choice amongst those objects to 
which the barriers of their species have confined 
them. But man, who is a creature adapted to a 
greater variety and intricacy of relation, connects 
with the general passion, the idea of some socml 
qualities, which direct and heighten the appetite 


On Beauty. 

which he has in common with all other animals ; 
and as he is not designed like them to live at large, 
it is lit that he should have something to create a 
preference, and fix his choice ; and this in general 
should be some sensible quality ; as no other can 
so quickly, so powerfully, or so surely produce 
its effect. The object therefore of this mixed 
passion, which we call love, is the beauty of the 
sex. Men are carried to the sex in general, as it 
is the sex, and by the common law of nature ; but 
they are attached to particulars by personal beauty. 
I call beauty a social quality ; for where women 
and men, and not only they, but when other ani- 
mals, give us a sense of joy and pleasure in be- 
holding them (and there are many that do so), 
they inspire us with sentiments of tenderness and 
affection towards their persons ; we like to have 
them near us, and we enter willingly into a kind 
of relation with them, unless we should have strong 
reasons to the contrary. But to what end, in 
many cases, this was designed, I am unable to 
discover ; for I see no greater reason for a con- 
nexion between man and several animals who are 
attired in so engaging a manner, than between him 


Society and Solitude. 

and some others who entirely want this attraction, 
or possess it in a far weaker degree. But it is 
probable, that Providence did not make even this 
distinction, but with a view to some great end, 
though we cannot perceive distinctly what it is, as 
His wisdom is not our wisdom, nor our ways His 



THE second branch of the social passions is that 
which administers to society in general. With re- 
gard to this, I observe, that society, merely as 
society, without any particular heightenings, gives 
us no positive pleasure in the enjoyment ; but ab- 
solute and entire solitude, that is, the total and 
perpetual exclusion from all society, is as great a 
positive pain as can almost be conceived. There- 
fore in the balance between the pleasure of general 
society^ and the pain of absolute solitude, ^^am is 
the predominant idea. But the pleasure of any 
particular social enjoyment outweighs very consi- 
derably, the uneasiness caused by the want of that 


Sympathy, Imitation, and Ambition. 

particular enjoyment ; so that the strongest sensa- 
tions relative to the habitudes of particular society, 
are sensations of pleasure. Good company, lively 
conversations, and the endearments of friendship, 
fill the mind with great pleasure : a temporary 
solitude, on the other hand, is itself agreeable. 
This may perhaps prove that we are creatures 
designed for contemplation as well as action ; since 
solitude as well as society has its pleasures ; as 
from the former observation we may discern, that 
an entire life of solitude contradicts the purposes of 
our being, since death itself is scarcely an idea of 
more terror. 



UNDER this denomination of society the pas- 
sions are of a complicated kind^ and branch out 
into a variety of forms agreeable to that variety of 
ends they are to serve in the great chain of society. 
The three principal links in this chain are, sym- 
pathy, imitation, and ambition. 





IT is by the first of these passions that we enter 
into the concerns of others ; that we are moved as 
they are moved, and are never suffered to be indif- 
ferent spectators of almost anything which men 
can do or suffer. For sympathy must be consi- 
dered as a sort of substitution by which we are 
put into the place of another man, and affected in 
many respects as he is affected : so that this pas- 
sion may either partake of the nature of those 
which regard self-preservation, and turning upon 
pain may be a source of the sublime ; or it may 
turn upon ideas of pleasure ; and then whatever 
has been said of the social affections, whether 
they regard society in general, or only some par- 
ticular modes of it, may be applicable here. It is 
by this principle chiefly that poetry, painting, and 
other affecting arts, transfuse their passions from 
one breast to another, and are often capable of 
grafting a delight on wretchedness, misery, and 
death itself. It is a common observation, that 
objects which in the reality would shock, are in 


The effects of Sympathy in the Distresses of others. 

tragical, and such like representations, the source 
of a very high species of pleasure. This, taken as 
a fact, has been the cause of much reasoning. The 
satisfaction has been commonly attributed, first, 
to the comfort we receive in considering that so 
melancholy a story is no more than a fiction ; and 
next, to the contemplation of our own freedom 
from the evils which we see represented. I am 
afraid it is a practice much too common in inqui- 
ries of this nature, to attribute the cause of feelings 
which merely arise from the mechanical structure 
of our bodies, or from the natural frame and con- 
stitution of our minds, to certain conclusions of 
the reasoning faculty on the objects presented to 
us; for I should imagine, that the influence of 
reason in producing our passions, is nothing near 
so extensive as it is commonly beheved. 



TO examine this point concerning the effect of 
tragedy in a proper manner, we must previously 
consider how we are affected by the feelings of 


The eftetts of Sympathy in the Distresses of others. 

our fellow-creatures in circumstances of real dis- 
tress. I am convinced we have a degree of delight, 
and that no small one, in the real misfortunes and 
pains of others ; for let the affection be what it will 
in appearance, if it does not make us shun such ob- 
jects, if on the contrary it induces us to approach 
them, if it makes us dwell upon them, in this case 
1 conceive we must have a delight or pleasure of 
some species or other in contemplating objects of 
this kind. Do we not read the authentic histories 
of scenes of this nature with as much pleasure as 
romances, or poems, where the incidents are ficti- 
tious ? The prosperity of no empire, nor the gran- 
deur of no king, can so agreeably affect in the 
reading, as the ruin of the state of Macedon, and 
the distress of its unhappy prince. Such a catas- 
trophe touches us in history as much as the de- 
struction of Troy does in fable. Our delight, in 
cases of this kind, is very greatly heightened, if the 
sufferer be some excellent person who sinks under 
an unworthy fortune. Scipio and Cato are both vir- 
tuous characters ; but we are more deeply affected 
by the violent death of the one, and the ruin of the 
great cause he adhered to, than with the deserved 
triumphs and uninterrupted prosperity of the other; 


The effects of Sympathy in the Distresses of others. 

for terror is a passion which always produces de- 
light when it does not press too close ; and pity is 
a passion accompanied with pleasure, because it 
arises from love and social affection. Whenever we 
are formed by nature to any active purpose, the 
passion which animates us to it, is attended with 
delight, or a pleasure of some kind, let the sub- 
ject-matter be what it will; and as our Creator 
has designed we should be united by the bond of 
sympathy. He has strengthened that bond by a 
proportionable delight; and there most where our 
sympathy is most wanted, in the distresses of 
others. If this passion was simply painful, we 
would shun with the greatest care all persons and 
places that could excite such a passion ; as some, 
who are so far gone in indolence as not to endure 
any strong impression, actually do. But the case 
is widely different with the greater part of man- 
kind ; there is no spectacle we so eagerly pursue, 
as that of some uncommon and grievous calamity ; 
so that whether the misfortune is before our eyes, 
or whether they are turned back to it in history, 
it always touches with delight. This is not an 
ucimixed delight, but blended with no small un- 
easiness. The delight we have in such things. 


Of the effects of Tragedy. 

hinders us from shunning scenes of misery; and 
the pain we feel, prompts us to relieve ourselves 
in relieving those who suffer ; and all this antece- 
dent to any reasoning, by an instinct that works 
us to its own purposes without our concurrence. 



IT is thus in real calamities. In imitated dis- 
tresses the only difference is the pleasure resulting 
from the effects of imitation; for it is never so 
perfect, but we can perceive it is imitation, and on 
that principle are somewhat pleased with it. And 
indeed in some cases we derive as much or more 
pleasure from that source than from the thing itself. 
But then t imagine we shall be much mistaken if 
we attribute any considerable part of our satisfac- 
tion in tragedy to the consideration that tragedy is 
a deceit, and its representations no realities. The 
nearer it approaches the reality, and the further it 
removes us from all idea of fiction, the more perfect 
is its power. But be its power of what kind it will, 
it never approaches to what it represents., Choose 
a day on which to represent the most sublime and 


Of the effects of Tragedy. 

affecting tragedy we have ; appoint the most fa- 
vourite actors ; spare no cost upon the scenes and 
decorations ; unite the greatest efforts of poetry, 
painting, and music ; and when you have collected 
your audience, just at the moment when their minds 
are erect with expectation, let it be reported that a 
state criminal of high rank is on the point of being 
executed in the adjoining square ; in a moment the 
emptiness of the theatre would demonstrate the 
comparative weakness of the imitative arts, and pro- 
claim the triumph of the real sympathy. I believe 
that this notion of our having a simple pain in the 
reality, yet a delight in the representation, arises 
from hence, that we do not sufficiently distinguish 
what we would by no means choose to do, from 
what we should be eager enough to see if it was 
once done. We delight in seeing things, which so 
far from doing, our heartiest wishes would be to 
see redressed. This noble capital, the pride of 
England and of Europe, I believe no man is so 
strangely wicked as to desire to see destroyed by a 
conflagration or an earthquake, though he should 
be removed himself to the greatest distance from 
the danger. But suppose such a fatal accident to 
have happened, what numbers from all parts would 


Of the effects of Tragedy. 

crowd to behold the ruins, and amongst them 
many who would have been content never to have 
seen London in its glory ! JSTor is it, either in real 
or fictitious distresses, our immunity from them 
which produces our delight ; in my own mind I can 
discover nothing like it. I apprehend that this mis- 
take is owing to a sort of sophism, by which we are 
frequently imposed upon ; it arises from our not 
distinguishing between what is indeed a necessary 
condition to our doing or suffering anything in ge- 
neral, and what is the cause of some particular act. 
If a man kills me with a sword, it is a necessary 
condition to this that we should have been both of 
us alive before the fact ; and yet it would be absurd 
to say, that our being both living creatures was the 
cause of his crime and of my death. So it is certain 
that it is absolutely necessary my life should be out 
of any imminent hazard, before I can take a delight in 
the sufferings of others, real or imaginary, or indeed 
in anything else from any cause whatsoever. But 
then it is a sophism to argue from thence, that this 
immunity is the cause of my delight either on these 
or on any occasions. No one can distinguish such 
a cause of satisfaction in his own mind, I believe ; 
nay, when we do not suffer any very acute pain, 



nor are exposed to any imminent danger of our lives, 
we can feel for others, whilst we suffer ourselves ; 
and often then most when we are softened by afflic- 
tion ; we see with pity even distresses which we 
would accept in the place of our own. 



THE second passion belonging to society is imita- 
tion, or, if you will, a desire of imitating, and 
consequently a pleasure in it. This passion arises 
from much the same cause with sympathy. For 
as sympathy makes us take a concern in whatever 
men feel, so this affection prompts us to copy what- 
ever they do ; and consequently we have a plea- 
sure in imitating, and in whatever belongs to imita- 
tion, merely as it is such, without any intervention 
of the reasoning faculty ; but solely from our na- 
tural constitution, which Providence has framed 
in such a manner as to find either pleasure or de- 
light, according to the nature of the object, in 
whatever regards the purposes of our being. It 
is by imitation, far more than by precept, that we 
learn everything ; and what we learn thus, we ac- 



quire not only more effectually, but more plea- 
santly. This forms our manners, our opinions, our 
lives. It is one of the strongest links of society ; 
it is a species of mutual compliance, which all men 
yield to each other, without constraint to them- 
selves, and which is extremely flattering to all. 
Herein it is that painting and many other agreeable 
arts have laid one of the principal foundations of 
their power. And since, by its influence on our 
manners and our passions, it is of such great con- 
sequence, I shall here venture to lay down a rule, 
which may inform us with a good degree of cer- 
tainty, when we are to attribute the power of the 
arts to imitation, or to our pleasure in the skill of 
the imitator merely ; and when to sympathy, or 
some other cause in conjunction with it. When 
the object represented in poetry or painting is such 
as we could have no desire of seeing them in the 
reality, then I may be sure that its power in poetry 
or painting is owing to the power of imitation, and 
to no cause operating in the thing itself. So it is 
with most of the pieces which the painters call 
still-life. In these a cottage, a dunghill, the 
meanest and most ordinary utensils of the kitchen, 
are capable of giving us pleasure. But when the 



object of the painting or poem is such as we should 
run to see if real, let it affect us with what odd 
sort of sense it will, we may rely upon it, that the 
power of the poem or picture is more owing to the 
nature of the thing itself than to the mere effect of 
imitation, or to a consideration of the skill of the 
imitator, however excellent. Aristotle has spoken 
so much and so solidly upon the force of imitation 
in his poetics, that it makes any further discourse 
upon this subject the less necessary. 



ALTHOUGH imitation is one of the great instru- 
ments used by Providence in bringing our nature 
towards its perfection, yet if men gave themselves 
up to imitation entirely, and each followed the 
other, and so on in an eternal circle, it is easy to 
see that there never could be any improvement 
amongst them. Men must remain as brutes do, 
the same at the end that they are at this day, and 
that they were in the beginning of the world. To 
prevent this, God has planted in man a sense of 
ambition, and a satisfaction arising from the con- 



templation of his excelling his fellows in some- 
thing deemed valuable amongst them. It is this 
passion that drives men to all the ways we see in 
use of signalizing themselves, and that tends to 
make whatever excites in a man the idea of this 
distinction so very pleasant. It has been so strong 
as to make very miserable men take comfort, that 
they were supreme in misery; and certain it is, 
that where we cannot distinguish ourselves by 
something excellent, we begin to take a compla- 
cency in some singular infirmities, follies, or de- 
fects of one kind or other. It is on this principle 
tliat flattery is so prevalent ; for flattery is no more 
than what raises in a man's mind an idea of a pre- 
ference which he has not. Now, whatever, either 
on good or upon bad grounds, tends to raise a man 
in his own opinion, produces a sort of swelling and 
triumph, that is extremely grateful to the human 
mind ; and this swelling is never more perceived, 
nor operates with more force, than when without 
danger we are conversant with terrible objects, the 
mind always claiming to itself some part of the 
dignity and importance of the things which it con- 
templates. Hence proceeds what Longinius had 
observed of that glorying and sense of inward 


The Recapitulation. 

greatness, that always tills the reader of such pas- 
sages in poets and orators as are sublime ; it is 
what every man must have felt in himself upon 
such occasions. 



TO draw the whole of what has been said into a 
few distinct points : — The passions which belong 
to self-preservation, turn on pain and danger ; they 
are simply painful when their causes immediately 
affect us ; they are delightful when we have an 
idea of pain and danger, without being actually in 
such circumstances ; this delight I have not called 
pleasure, because it turns on pain, and because it 
is different enough from any idea of positive plea- 
sure. Whatever excites this delight, I call sublime. 
The passions belonging to self-preservation are the 
strongest of all the passions. 

The second head to which the passions are re- 
ferred with relation to their final cause, is society. 
There are two sorts of societies. The first is, |^e 
society of sex. The passion belonging to this is 



The Recapitulation. 

called love, and it contains a mixture of lust; its 
object is the beauty of women. The other is the 
great society with man and all other animals. The 
passion subservient to this is called likewise love, 
but it has no mixture of lust, and its object is 
beauty ; which is a name I shall apply to ail such 
qualities in things as induce in us a sense of affec- 
tion and tenderness, or some other passion the 
most nearly resembling these. The passion of 
love has its rise in positive pleasure; it is, like all 
things which grow out of pleasure, capable of 
being mixed with a mode of uneasiness, that is, 
when an idea of its object is excited in the mind 
with an idea at the same time of having irre- 
trievably lost it. This mixed sense of pleasure I 
have not called pain, because it turns upon actual 
pleasure, and because it is, both in its cause 
and in most of its effects, of a nature altogether 

Next to the general passion we have for society, 
to a choice in which we are directed by the plea- 
sure we have in the object, the particular passion 
under this head called sympathy has the greatest 
extent. The nature of this passion is, to put us in 


The Conclusion. 

the place of another, in whatever circumstance he 
is in, and to affect us in a like manner ; so that this 
passion may, as the occasion requires, turn either 
on pain or pleasure ; but with the modifications 
mentioned in some cases in Section XI. As to 
imitation and preference, nothing more need br 



I BELIEVED that an attempt to range and me- 
thodize some of our most leading passions, would 
be a good preparative to such an enquiry as we are 
going to make in the ensuing discourse. The pas- 
sions I have mentioned are almost the only ones 
which it can be necessai-y to consider in our pre- 
sent design ; though the variety of the passions is 
great, and worthy, in every branch of that variety, 
of an attentive investigation. The more accurately 
we search into the human mind, the stronger traces 
we everywhere find of His wisdom who made it. 
If a discourse on the use of the parts of the body 
may be considered as a hymn to the Creator, the 


The Conclusion. 

use of the passions, which are the organs of the 
mind, cannot be barren of praise to Him, nor un- 
productive to ourselves of that noble and uncom- 
mon union of science and admiration, which a 
contemplation of the works of infinite wisdom 
alone can afford to a rational mind ; whilst, re- 
ferring to Him whatever we find of right or good 
or fair in ourselves, discovering His strength and 
wisdom even in our own weakness and imperfec- 
tion, honouring them where we discover them 
clearly, and adoring their profundity where we are 
lost in our search, we may be inquisitive without 
impertinence, and elevated without pride ; we may 
be admitted, if I may dare to say so, into the coun- 
sels of the Almighty by a consideration of his 
works. The elevation of the mind ought to be 
the principal end of all our studies, which if they 
do not in some measure effect, they are of very 
little service to us. But, besides this great pur- 
pose, a consideration of the rationale of our pas- 
sions seems to me very necessary for all who 
would affect them upon solid and sure principles. 
It is not enough to know them in general : to affect 
them after a delicate manner, or to judge properly 


The Conclusion. 

of any work designed to affect them, we should 
know the exact boundaries of their several juris- 
dictions ; we should pursue them through all their 
variety of operations, and pierce into the inmost, 
and what might appear inaccessible parts of our 
nature. f/j sdi 

Qtiod latet arcand non enarrabile Jibi'a, 

Without all this, it is possible for a man, after a 
confused manner, sometimes to satisfy his own 
mind of the truth of his work ; but he can never 
have a certain determinate rule to go by, nor can 
he ever make his propositions sufficiently clear to 
others. Poets, and orators, and painters, and 
those who cultivate other branches of the liberal 
arts, have, without this critical knowledge, suc- 
ceeded well in their several provinces, and will 
succeed; as among artificers there are many ma- 
chines made and even invented without any exact 
knowledge of the principles they are governed by. 
It is, I own, not uncommon to be wrong in theory 
and right in practice ; and we are happy that it is 
so. Men often act right from their feelings, who 
afterwards reason but ill on them from principle 


The Conclusion. 

but as it is impossible to avoid an attempt at such 
reasoning, and equally impossible to prevent its 
having some influence on our practice, surely it is 
worth taking some pains to have it just, and 
founded on the basis of sure experience. We 
might expect that the artists themselves would 
have been our surest guides ; but the artists have 
been too much occupied in the practice : the phi- 
losophers have done little ; and what they have 
done, was mostly with a view to their own schemes 
and systems : and as for those called critics, they 
have generally sought the rule of the arts in the 
wrong place; they sought it among poems, pic- 
tures, engravings, statues, and buildings. But art 
can never give the rules that make an art. This is, 
I believe, the reason why artists in general, and 
poets principally, have been confined in so narrow 
a circle ; they have been rather imitators of one 
another than of nature : and this with so faithful 
an uniformity, and to so remote an antiquity, that 
it is hard to say who gave the first model. Critics 
follow them, and therefore can do little as guides. 
I can judge but poorly of anything, whilst I mea- 
sure it by no other standard than itself. The true- 


The Conclusion. 

standard of the arts is in every man's power ; and 
an easy observation of the most common, some- 
times of the meanest things in nature, will give 
the truest lights, where the greatest sagacity and 
industry that slights such observation, must leave 
us in the dark, or, what is worse, amuse and 
mislead us by false lights. In an inquiry, it is 
almost everything to be once in a right road. 1 
am satisfied I have done but little by these obser- 
vations considered in themselves ; and I never 
should have taken the pains to digest them, much 
less should I have ever ventured to publish them, if 
I was not convinced that nothing tends more to the 
corruption of science than to suffer it to stagnate. 
These waters must be troubled before they can 
exert their virtues. A man who works beyond 
the surface of things, though he may be wronu" 
himself, yet he clears the way for others, and may 
chance to make even his errors subservient to the 
cause of truth. In the following parts I shall 
inquire what things they are that cause in us the 
affections of the sublime and beautiful, as in this 
I have considered the affections themselves. I 
only desire one favour, that no part of this dis- 


The Conclusion. 

course may be judged of by itself, and indepen- 
dently of the rest ; for I am sensible I have not 
disposed my materials to abide the test of a cap- 
tious controversy, but of a sober and even for- 
giving examination ; that they are not armed at all 
points for battle, but dressed to visit those who are 
willing to give a peaceful entrance to truth. 









THE passion caused by the great and sublime in 
nature^ when those causes operate most powerfully, 
is astonishment ; and astonishment is that state of 
the soul, in which all its motions are suspended, 
with some degree of horror.* In this case the 
mind is so entirely filled with its object, that it 
cannot entertain any other, nor by consequence 
reason on that object which employs it. Hence 
arises the great power of the sublime, that, far 

* Part I. Sect. 3, 4, 7. 



from being produced by them, it anticipates our 
reasonings, and hurries us on by an irresistible 
force. Astonishment, as I have said, is the effect 
of the sublime in its highest degree ; the inferior 
effects are admiration, reverence, and respect. 



NO passion so effectually robs the mind of all its 
powers of acting and reasoning as fear.* For fear 
being an apprehension of pain or death, it operates 
in a manner that resembles actual pain. What- 
ever therefore is terrible, with regard to sight, is 
sublime too, whether this cause of terror, be en- 
dued with greatness of dimensions or not; for it 
is impossible to look on anything as trifling, or 
contemptible, that may be dangerous. There are 
many animals, who though far from being large, 
are yet capable of raising ideas of the sublime, 
because they are considered as objects of terror ; 
as serpents and poisonous animals of almost all 
kinds. And to things of great dimensions, if we 
annex an adventitious idea of terror, they become 
* Part IV. Sect. 3, 4, 5, 6. 



without comparison greater. A level plain of a 
vast extent on land, is certainly no mean idea; 
the prospect of such a plain may be as extensive 
as a prospect of the ocean : but can it ever fill the 
mind with anything so great as the ocean itself? 
This is owing to several causes ; but it is owing 
to none more than this, that the ocean is an object 
of no small terror. Indeed terror is in all cases 
whatsoever, either more openly or latently, the 
ruling principle of the sublime. Several languages 
bear a strong testimony to the affinity of these 
ideas. They frequently use the same word, to 
signify indift'erently the modes of astonishment or 
admiration and those of terror. Qa/uftoi: is in 
Greek, either fear or wonder ; ceivot; is terrible or 
respectable ; aiceu, to reverence or to fear. Vei'eor 
in Latin, is what aihto is in Greek. The Romans 
used the verb stvpeo, a term which strongly marks 
the state of an astonished mind, to express the 
effect either of simple fear, or of astonishment, 
the word attonitus (thunder-struck) is equally ex- 
pressive of the alliance of these ideas; and do 
not the French etonnemeiit, and the English asto- 
nisliment and amazement, point out as clearly the 
kindred emotions which attend fear and wonder ? 



They who have a more general knowledge of lan- 
guages, could produce, I make no doubt, many 
other and equally striking examples. 



TO make anything very terrible, obscurity* seems 
in general to be necessary. When we know the 
full extent of any danger, when we can accustom 
our eyes to it, a great deal of the apprehension 
vanishes. Every one will be sensible of this, who 
considers how greatly night adds to our dread, in 
all cases of danger, and how much the notions of 
ghosts and goblins, of which none can form clear 
ideas, affect minds which give credit to the po- 
pular tales concerning such sorts of beings. Those 
despotic governments, which are founded on the 
passions of men, and principally upon the passion 
of fear, keep their chief as much as may be from 
the public eye. The policy has been the same in 
many cases of religion. Almost all the heathen 
temples were dark. Even in the barbarous tem- 
ples of the Americans at this day, they keep their 
: ■■/. * Part IV. Sect. 14, 15, 16. 



idol in a dark part of the hut which is consecrated 
to his worship. For this purpose too the Druids 
performed all their ceremonies in the bosom of the 
darkest woods, and in the shade of the oldest and 
most spreading oaks. No person seems better to 
have understood the secret of heightening, or of 
setting terrible things, if I may use the expression, 
in their strongest light, by the force of a judicious 
obscurity, than Milton. His description of Death 
in the second book is admirably studied; it is 
astonishing with what a gloomy pomp, with what 
a significant and expressive uncertainty of strokes 
and colouring, he has finished the portrait of the 
king^ of terrors : 


The other shape. 

If shape it might be call'd, that shape had none 
Distinguishable, in member, joint, or limb ; 
Or substance might be calVd that shadow seem'd, 
For each seemd either ; black he stood as night : 
Fierce as ten furies ; terrible as hell; 
And shook a deadly dart. What seem'd his head 
The likeness of a kingly crown had on. 

In this description all is dark, uncertain, confused, 
terrible, and sublime to the last degree. 


Of the difference between Clearness and Obscurity 



IT is one thing to make an idea clear, and another 
to make it aflfecting to the imagination. If I make 
a drawing of a palace, or a temple, or a land- 
scape, I present a very clear idea of those objects ; 
but then (allowing for the effect of imitation, which 
is something) my picture can at most affect only 
as the palace, temple, or landscape, would have 
affected in the reality. On the other hand, the 
most lively and spirited verbal description I can 
give, raises a very obscure and imperfect idea of 
such objects ; but then it is in my power to raise 
a stronger emotion by the description than I could 
do by the best painting. This, experience con- 
stantly evinces. The proper manner of conveying 
the affections of the mind from one to another, is 
by words ; there is a great insufficiency in all 
other methods of communication ; and so far is a 
clearness of imagery from being absolutely neces- 
sary to an influence upon the passions, that they 
may be considerably operated upon, without pre- 


with regard to the Passions. 

seating any image at all, by certain sounds adapted 
to that purpose; of which we have a sufficient 
proof in the acknowledged and powerful effects of 
instrumental music. In reality, a great clearness 
helps but little towards affecting the passions, as 
it is in some sort an enemy to all enthusiasms 



THERE are two verses in Horace's Art of Poe- 
try, that seem to contradict this opinion ; for whicb 
reason I shall take a little more pains in clearing 
it up. The verses are, 

Segnius irritant animos demissa per aures^ 
Quam quce sitnt oculis suhjecta fidelUms. 

On this the Abb6 du Bos founds a criticism, 
wherein he gives painting the preference to poetry 
in the article of moving the passions; principally 
on account of the greater clearness of the ideas it 
represents. I believe this excellent judge was led 
into this mistake (if it be a mistake) by his system, 
to which he found it more conformable than I ima- 


Of the difference between Clearness and Obscurity 

gine it will be found by experience. I know seve- 
ral who admire and love painting, and yet who re- 
gard the objects of their admiration in that art with 
coolness enough in comparison of that warmth with 
which they are animated by affecting pieces of 
poetry or rhetoric. Among the common sort of 
people, I never could perceive that painting had 
much influence on their passions. It is true, that 
the best sorts of painting, as well as the best sorts 
of poetry, are not much understood in that sphere. 
But it is most certain, that^ their passions are very 
strongly roused by a fanatic preacher, or by the 
ballads of Chevy-chase, or the Children in the 
Wood, and by other little popular poems and tales 
that are current in that rank of life. 1 do not 
know of any paintings, bad or good, that produce 
the same effect. So that poetry, with all its obscu- 
rity, has a more general, as well as a more power- 
ful dominion over the passions than the other art. 
And I think there are reasons in nature, why the 
obscure idea, when properly conveyed, should be 
more affecting than the clear. It is our ignorance 
of things that causes all our admiration, and chiefly 
excites our passions. Knowledge and acquaintance 
make the most striking causes affect but little. It 


with regard to the Passions. 

is thus \Wth the vulgar; and all men are as the 
vulgar in what they do not understand. The ideas' 
of eternity, and infinity, are among the most affect- 
ing we have ; and perhaps there is nothing of which 
we really understand so little, as of infinity, and 
eternity. We do not anywhere meet a more sublime 
description than this justly-celebrated one of Milton, 
wherein he gives the portrait of Satan with a dig- 
nity so suitable to the subject: 'co » to ; hvifie 
-•;.: ■ .::;■:: ;; t Ot 

He above the rest 

In shape and gesture proudly eminent. 
Stood like a tower ; Ms form had yet not lost 
All her original brightness, nor appear d 
Less than archangel ruind, and tK excess 
Of glory obscur'd; as when the sun new ris'n 
Looks through the horizontal misty air 
Shorn of his beams; or from behind the moon 
In dim eclipse disastrous ticilight sheds 
On half the nations; and with fear of change 
Perplexes monarchs. 

Here is a very noble picture ; and in what does 
this poetical picture consist? in images of a tower, 
an archangel, the sun rising through mists, or in 



Of the difference between Clearness and Obscurity 

an eclipse, the ruin of monarchs, and the revolutions 
of kingdoms. The mind is hurried out of itself, 
by a crowd of great and confused images ; which 
affect because they are crowded and confused. 
For, separate them, and you lose much of the 
greatness : and join them, and you infallibly lose 
the clearness. The images raised by poetry are 
always of this obscure kind ; though in general the 
effects of poetry are by no means to be attributed 
to the images it raises ; which point we shall exa- 
mine more at large hereafter*. But painting, when 
we have allowed for the pleasure of imitation, 
can only affect simply by the images it presents ; 
and even in painting, a judicious obscurity in some 
things contributes to the effect of the picture ; be- 
cause the images in painting are exactly similar to 
those in nature; and in nature, dark, confused, 
uncertain images have a greater power on the 
fancy to form the grander passions, than those have 
which are more clear and determinate. But where 
and when this observation may be applied to prac- 
tice, and how far it shall be extended, will be better 
deduced from the nature of the subject, and from 

* Part. V. 


with regard to the Passions. 

the occasion, than from any rules that can be 

I am sensible that this idea has met with oppo- 
sition, and is likely still to be rejected by several. 
But let it be considered, that hardly anything can 
strike the mind with its greatness, which does not 
make some sort of approach towards infinity; 
which nothing can do whilst we are able to per- 
ceive its bounds ; but to see an object distinctly, 
and to perceive its bounds, is one and the same 
thing. A clear idea is therefore another name for 
a little idea. There is a passage in the book of 
Job amazingly sublime, and this sublimity is prin- 
cipally due to the terrible uncertainty of the thing 
described: " In thoughts from the visions of the 
night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, fear came 
upon me and trembling , ichich made all my hones to 
shake. Then a spirit passed before my face. The 
hair of my flesh stood up. It stood still, but I could 
not discern the form thereof; an image was before 
mine eyes ; there was silence; and I heard a voice,' — 
Shall mortal man be more just than God V^ We are 
first prepared with the utmost solemnity for the vi- 
sion ; we are first terrified, before we are let even 
into the obscure cause of our emotion ; but when 


Of the difference between Clearness and Obscurity, &c. 

this grand cause of terror makes its appearance, 
what is it ? Is it not wrapt up in the shades of its 
own incomprehensible darkness, more awful, more 
striking, more terrible, than the liveliest description, 
than the clearest painting, could possibly represent 
it ? When painters have attempted to give us clear 
representations of these very fanciful and terrible 
ideas, they have, I think, almost always failed: 
insomuch that I have been at a loss, in all the pic- 
tures I have seen of hell, whether the painter did 
not intend something ludicrous. Several painters 
have handled a subject of this kind mth a view of 
assembling as many horrid phantoms as their ima- 
ginations could suggest ; but all the designs I have 
chanced to meet of the temptations of St. Anthony, 
were rather a sort of odd wild grotesques, than 
anything capable of producing a serious passion. 
In all these subjects poetry is very happy. Its 
apparitions, its chimeras, its harpies, its allegori- 
cal figures, are grand and affecting; and though 
Virgil's Fame, and Homer's Discord, are obscure, 
they are magnificent figures. These figures in, 
painting would be clear enough, but I fear they 
might become ridiculous, -^iiineit i«itt o-in orr { or 



SECTION V/'" ''^" 

BESIDES those things whic\i dh-ectly suggest the 
idea of danger, and those which produce a similar 
effect from a mechanical cause, I know of nothing 
sublime, whiphis not some modification of power. 
And this branch rises as naturally as the other 
two branches, from terror, the common stock of 
everything that is sublime. The idea of power, at 
first view, seems of the class of these indifferent 
ones, which may equally belong to pain or to 
pleasure. But in reality, the affection arising 
from the idea of vast power, is extremely remote 
from that neutral character. For first, we must 
remember*, that the idea of pain, in its highest 
degree, is much stronger than the highest degree 
of pleasure; and that it preserves the samesupe* 
dority , through aU the subordinate gradations. 
From hence it is, that where the chances for equal 
degrees of suffering or enjoyment are in any sort 
equal, the idea of the suffering must always be pre- 

* Part I. sect. 7. 



valent. And indeed the ideas of pain, and above 
all of death, are so very affecting, that whilst we 
remain in the presence of whatever is supposed to 
have the power of inflicting either, it is impossible 
to be perfectly free from terror. Again, we know 
by experience, that for the enjoyment of pleasure, 
no great efforts of power are at all necessary ; nay, 
we know, that such efforts would go a great way 
towards destroying our satisfaction ; for pleasure 
must be stolen, and not forced upon us ; pleasure 
follows the will ; and therefore we are generally 
affected with it by many things of a force greatly 
inferior to our own. But pain is always inflicted 
by a power in some way superior, because we 
never submit to pain willingly. So that strength, 
violence, pain, and terror, are ideas that rush in 
upon the mind together. Look at a man, or any 
other animal of prodigious strength, and what is 
your idea before reflexion ? Is it that this strength 
will be subservient to you, to your ease, to your 
pleasure, to your interest in any sense ? No ; the 
emotion you feel, is, lest this enormous strength 
should be employed to the purposes of* rapine and 
destruction. That power derives all its sublimity 
* Vide Part III. sect. 21. 



from the terror with which it is generally accom- 
panied, will appear evidently from its effect in the 
very few cases in which it may be possible to strip 
a considerable degree of strength of its ability to 
hurt. When you do this, you spoil it of every- 
thing sublime, and it immediately becomes con- 
temptible. An ox is a creature of vast strength ; 
but he is an innocent creature, extremely service- 
able, and not at all dangerous ; for which reason 
the idea of an ox is by no means grand. A bull 
is strong too : but his strength is of another kind ; 
often very destructive, seldom (at least amongst 
us) of any use in our business ; the idea of a bull 
is therefore great, and it has frequently a place in 
sublime descriptions, and elevating comparisons. 
Let us look at another strong animal in the two 
distinct lights in which we may consider him. The 
horse in the light of an useful beast, fit for the 
plough, the road, the draft ; in every social useful 
light the horse has nothing of the sublime : but is 
it thus that we are affected with him, " Whose neck 
is clothed with thunder , the glory of whose nostrils is 
terrible, who sivaUoiveth the ground icith fierceness 
and rage, neither believeth that it is the sound of the 
trumpet?" In this description the useful character 



of the horse entirely disappears, and the terrible 
and sublime, blaze out together. We have conti- 
nually about us, animals of a strength, that is con- 
siderable, but not pernicious. Amongst these we 
neyer look for the sublime ; it comes upon us in 
the gloomy forest, and in the howling wilderness, 
in the form of the lion, the tyger, the panther, or 
rhinoceros. Whenever strength is only useful, 
and employed for our benefit or our pleasure, then 
it is never sublime ; for nothing can act agreeably 
to us, that does not act in conformity to our will ; 
but to act agreeably to our will, it must be subject 
to us, and therefore can never be the cause of a 
grand and commanding conception. The descrip- 
tion of the wild ass, in Job, is worked up into no 
small sublimity, merely by insisting on his freedom, 
and his setting mankind at defiance; otherwise 
the description of such an animal could have had 
nothing noble in it. " Who hath loosed" (says he) 
*' the bands of the wild ass? whose house I have made 
the wilderness, and the barren land his dioellings. He 
scorneth the multitude of the city, neither regardeth 
he the voice of the driver. The range of the moun- 
tains is his pastmr." The magnificent description 
of the unicorn and of leviathan, in the same book, 



is fiill of the same heightening circumstances : 
" Will the unicorn be williny to sei've thee? canst 
thou bind the unicm-n with his hand in the furrow^ 

wilt tJiou trust him because his strength is great ? 

Ca7ist thou draw out leviathan with a hook? will 
he make a covenant with thee ? wilt thou take him 
for a servant for ever ? shall not one be cast down 
even at the sight of him ?" In short, wheresoever 
we find strength, and in what light soever we look 
upon power, we shall all along observe the sub- 
lime the concomitant of terror, and contempt the 
attendant on a strength that is subservient and in- 
noxious. The race of dogs, in many of their kinds, 
have generally a competent degree of strength and 
swiftness ; and they exert these and other valuable 
qualities which they possess, greatly to our conve- 
nience and pleasure. Dogs are indeed the most 
social, affectionate, and amiable animals of the 
whole brute creation ; but love approaches much 
nearer to contempt than is commonly imagined ; and 
accordingly, though we caress dogs, we borrow from 
them an appellation of the most despicable kindj 
when we employ terms of reproach ; and this ap- 
pellation is the common mark of the last vileness 
and contempt in every language. Wolves have not 



raore strength than several species of dogs ; but 
on account of their unmanageable fierceness, the 
idea of a wolf is not despicable; it is not excluded 
from grand descriptions and similitudes. Thus we 
are affected by strength, which is natural power. 
The power which arises from institution in kings 
and commanders, has the same connexion with 
terror. Sovereigns are frequently addressed with 
the title of dread majesty. And it may be observ- 
ed, that young persons, little acquainted with the 
world, and who have not been used to approach 
men in power, are commonly struck with an awe 
which takes away the free use of their faculties. 
*' Whe7i I prepared my seat in the street" (says Job) 
" the young men saw me, and hid themselves J^ Indeed, 
so natural is this timidity with regard to power, 
and so strongly does it inhere in our constitution, 
that very few are able to conquer it, but by mixing 
much in the business of the great world, or by 
using no small violence to their natural disposi- 
tions. I know some people are of opinion, that 
no awe, no degree of terror, accompanies the idea 
of power; and have hazarded to affirm, that we 
can contemplate the idea of God himself, without 
any such emotion. I purposely avoided, when I 



first considered this subject, to introduce the idea 
of that great and tremendous Being, as an exam- 
ple in an argument so light as this : though it fre- 
quently occurred to me, not as an objection to, but 
as a strong confirmation of, my notions in this 
matter. I hope, in what I am going to say, I 
shall avoid presumption, where it is almost impos- 
sible for any mortal to speak with strict propriety. 
I say, then, that whilst we consider the Godhead 
merely as he is, an object of the understanding, 
which forms a complex idea of power, wisdom, 
justice, goodness, all stretched to a degree far ex- 
ceeding the bounds of our comprehension, whilst 
we consider the Divinity in this refined and ab- 
stracted light, the imagination and passions are 
little or nothing affected. But because we are 
bound, by the condition of our nature, to ascend 
to these pure and intellectual ideas, through the 
medium of sensible images, and to judge of these 
divine qualities by their evident acts and exertions, 
it becomes extremely hard to disentangle our idea 
of the cause from the eflfect by which we are led to 
know it. Thus when we contemplate the Deity, 
his attributes and their operation coming united on 
the mind, form a sort of sensible image, and as 



such, are capable of affecting tlie imagination. 
Now, though in a just idea of the Deity, perhaps 
none of his attributes are predominant, yet, to our 
imagination, his power is by far the most striking. 
Some reflexion, some comparing, is necessary to 
satisfy us of his wisdom, his justness, and his 
goodness. To be struck with his power, it is only 
necessary that we should open our eyes. But 
whilst we contemplate so vast an object, under the 
arm, as it were, of Almighty power, and invested 
upon every side with omnipresence, we shrink into 
the minuteness of our own nature, and are, in a 
manner, annihilated before him. And though a 
consideration of his other attributes may relieve in 
some measure our apprehensions ; yet no convic- 
tion of the justice with which it is exercised, nor 
the mercy with which it is tempered, can wholly 
remove the terror that naturally arises from a force 
which nothing can withstand. If we rejoice, we 
rejoice with trembling; and even whilst we are 
receiving benefits, we cannot but shudder at a 
power which can confer benefits of such mighty 
importance. When the prophet David contem- 
plated the wonders of wisdom and power which 
are displayed in the economy of man, he seems to 



be struck with a sort of divine horror, and cries 
out, " Fearfully and wondafully am I made /" An 
heathen poet has a sentiment of a similar nature; 
Horace looks upon it as the last effort of philo- 
sophical fortitude, to behold without ten'or and 
amazement, diis immense and glorious fabric of 
the universe : .itiq silj ,e»vi/wii;.:fisi ci jBiIw bar.. 

Hunc solem, et steltas, ei decedmtia certis 
Tempoia momeiitis, sunt qui formidine nulla 
Imbuti spedant. 

Lucretius is a poet not to be suspected of giving 
way to superstitious terrors ; yet when he sup- 
poses the whole mechanism of nature laid open 
by the master of his philosophy, his transport on. 
this magnificent view, which he has represented in 
the colours of such bold and lively poetiy, is over- 
cast with a shade of secret dread and horror : 

His tibi me ebus qwceddm dimria voliiptas 
Percipit, dtque horror, quod sic Natura tUa vi 
Tarn manifesta patet ex omni parte retecta. 

But the scripture alone can supply ideas an- 
swerable to the majesty of this subject. In the 
scripture, wherever God is represented as appear- 



ing" or speaking, everything terrible in nature is 
called up to heighten the awe and solemnity of 
the divine presence. The psalms, and the pro- 
phetical books, are crowded with instances of this 
kind. *' The earth shook'' (sdiys the j^salmist); ''the 
heavens also dropped at the presence of the Lmd" 
And what is remarkable, the painting preserves 
the same character, not only when he is supposed 
descending to take vengeance upon the wicked, but 
even when he exerts the like plenitude of power 
in acts of beneficence to mankind. " Tremble, 
thou earth! at the presence of the Lord; at the pre- 
sence of the God of Jacob ; ivhich turned the rock 
into standing water, the flint into a fountain of 
waters!" It were endless to enumerate all the 
passages, both in the sacred and profane writers, 
which establish the general sentiment of mankind, 
concerning the inseparable union of a sacred and 
reverential awe, with our ideas of the Divinity. 
Hence the common maxim. Primus in orbe Deos 
fecit timm\ This maxim may be, as I believe it 
is, false with regard to the origin of religion. The 
maker of the maxim saw how inseparable these 
ideas were, without considering that the notion of 
some great power must be always precedent to 



our dread of it. But this dread must necessarily 
follow the idea of such a power, when it is once 
excited in the mind. It is on this principle that 
true religion has, and must have, so large a mix- 
ture of salutary fear ; and that false religions have 
generally nothing else but fear to support them. 
Before the Christian religion had, as it were, hu- 
manized the idea of the Divinity, and brought it 
somewhat nearer to us, there was very little said 
of the love of God. The followers of Plato have 
something of it, and only something; the other 
writers of pagan antiquity, whether poets or phi- 
losophers, nothing at all. And they who consider 
with what infinite attention, by what a disregard 
of every perishable object, through what long 
habits of piety and contemplation it is, any man 
is able to attain an entire love and devotion to the 
Deity, will easily perceive, that it is not the first, 
the most natural and the most striking effect which 
proceeds from that idea. Thus we have traced 
power through its several gradations unto the 
highest of all, where our imagination is finally 
lost ; and we find terror, quite throughout the 
progress, its inseparable companion, and growing 
along with it, as far as we can possibly trace 



them. NovY, as power is undoubtedly a capital 
source of the sublime, this will point out evidently 
from whence its energy is derived, and to what 
class of ideas we ought to unite it. 


* PRIvllTION. 

ALL general privations are great, because they are 
all terrible; Vacuity, Darkness^, Solitude, and Si- 
lence. With what a fire of imagination, yet with 
what severity of judgment, has Virgil amassed all 
these circumstances, where he knows that all the 
images of a tremendous dignity ought to be united, 
at the mouth of hell ; where, before he unlocks the 
secrets of the great deep, he seems to be seized 
with a religious horror, and to retire astonished at 
the boldness of his own design : 

Di quihus imperium est animarum, umhrceque 

silentes ! 
Et Chaos, et Plegethon! loea nocte silentia late? 
Sit mihi fas audita loqui ! sit numine vestro 
Pandere res alta terra et caligine mersas! 
Jbant obscuri, sola sub nocte, per umbram, 
Perque domes Ditis vacuas, et inania regna. 



Ye subterraneous gods ! whose awful sway 
The gliding ghosts and silent shades obey ; 
O Chaos, hear ! and Phlegethon prof mind ! 
Whose solemn empire stretches luide armind ! 
Give me, ye great tremendous poweis, to tell 
Of scenes and wonders in the depth of hell ! 
Give me your mighty secrets to display 
From those black realms of darkness to the day. 


Obscure they went through dreary shades that led 
Along the waste dominions of the dead. 




GREATNESS* of dimension is a powerful cause 
of the sublime. This is too evident, and the ob- 
servation too common, to need any illustration ; it 
is not so common to consider in what ways great- 
ness of dimension, vastness of extent or quantity, 
has the most striking effect. For certainly, there 
are ways, and modes, wherein the same quantity 

* Part IV. sect. 9. 



of extension shall produce greater effects than it 
is found to do in others. Extension is either in 
length, height, or depth. Of these the length 
strikes least ; a hundred yards of even ground 
will never work such an effect as a tower a hundred 
yards high, or a rock or mountain of that altitude. 
I am apt to imagine likewise, that height is less 
grand than depth ; and that we are more struck at 
looking down from a precipice, than looking up at 
an object of equal height; but of that I am not 
very positive. A perpendicular has more force in 
forming the sublime, than an inclined plane ; and 
the effects of a rugged and broken surface seem 
stronger than where it is smooth and polished. It 
would carry us out of our way to enter in this 
place into the cause of these appearances ; but 
certain it is they afford a large and fruitful field of 
speculation. However, it may not be amiss to 
add to these remarks upon magnitude, that, as the 
great extreme of dimension is sublime, so the last 
extreme of littleness is in some measure sublime 
likewise ; when we attend to the infinite divisibility 
of matter, when we pursue animal life into these 
excessively small and yet organized beings, that 
escape the nicest inquisition of the sense, when 



we push our discoveries yet downward, and con- 
sider those creatures so many degrees yet smaller, 
and the still diminishing scale of existence, in 
tracing which the imagination is lost as well as the 
sense, we become amazed and confounded at the 
wonders of minuteness ; nor can we distinguish in 
its effect this extreme of littleness from the vast 
itself. For division must be infinite as well as 
addition ; because the idea of a perfect unity can 
no more be arrived at, than that of a complete 
whole, to which nothing may be added. 



ANOTHER source of the sublime is Infinity; 
if it does not rather belong to the last. Infinity 
has a tendency to fill the mind with that sort of 
delightful horror, which is the most genuine effect, 
and truest test of the sublime. There are scarcv^ 
any things which can become the objects of our 
senses, that are really and in their own nature in- 
finite. But the eye not being able to perceive the 
bounds of many things, they seem to be infinite, 
and they produce the same effect as if they were 



really so. We are deceived in the like manner, if 
the parts of some large object are so continued to 
any indefinite number, that the imagination meets 
no check which may hinder its extending them at 

Whenever vre repeat any idea frequently, the 
mind, by a sort of mechanism, repeats it long after 
the first cause has ceased to operate*. After 
whirling about, when we sit down, the objects 
about us still seem to whirl. After a long suc- 
cession of noises, as the fall of waters, or the 
beating of forge-hammers, the hammers beat and 
the water roars in the imagination long after the 
first sounds have ceased to affect it ; and they die 
away at last by gradations which are scarcely per- 
ceptible. If you hold up a straight pole, with 
your eye to one end, it will seem extended to a 
length almost incredible f. Place a number of 
uniform and equidistant marks on this pole, they 
will cause the same deception, and seem multiplied 
without end. The senses, strongly affected in 
some one manner, cannot quickly change their 
tenor, or adapt themselves to other things; but 
they continue in their old channel until the strength 
* Part IV. sect. 12. t Part IV. sect. 14. 


Saccession and Uniformity. 

of the first mover decays. This is the reason of 
an appearance very frequently in madmen; that 
they remain whole days and nights, sometimes 
whole years, in the constant repetition of some 
remark, some complaint, or song ; which having 
struck powerfully on their disordered imagination 
in the beginning of their phrenzy, every repetition 
reinforces it with new strength; and the hurry of 
their spirits, unrestrained by the curb of reason, 
continues it to the end of their lives. 



SUCCESSION and uniformity of parts, are what 
constitute the artificial infinite. 1. Succession; 
which is requisite that the parts may be continued 
so long and in such a direction, as by their fre- 
quent impulses on the sense to impress the imagi-; 
nation with an idea of their progress beyond their 
actual limits. 2. Uniformity ; because if the figures 
of the parts should be changed, the imagination at 
every change finds a check; you are presented at 
every alteration with the termination of one idea, 
and the beginning of another ; by which means it 


Succession and Uniforiuity. 

becomes impossible to continue that uninterrupted 
progression, which alone can stamp on bounded 
objects the character of infinity. It is in this 
kind of artificial infinity*, I believe, we ought to 
look for the cause why a rotund has such a noble 
effect. For in a rotund, whether it be a building 
or a plantation, you can nowhere fix a boundary ; 
turn which way you will, the same object still 
seems to continue, and the imagination has no 
rest. But the parts must be uniform, as well as 
circularly disposed, to give this figure its full force ; 
because any difference, whether it be in the dispo- 
sition or in the figure, or even in the colour of the 
parts, is highly prejudicial to the idea of infinity, 
which every change must check and interrupt, at 
every alteration commencing a new series. On 
the same principles of succession and uniformity, 
the grand appearance of the ancient heathen tem- 
ples, which were generally oblong forms, with a 
range of uniform pillars on every side, will be 
easily accounted for. From the same cause also 

* Mr. Addison, in the Spectators, concerning the plea- 
sures of the imagination, thinks it is because in the rotund, 
at one glance you see half the building. This I do not 
imagine to be the real cause. 


Succession and Uniformity. 

may be derived the grand eft'ect of the aisles in 
many of our own cathedrals. The form of a cross 
used in some churches seems to me not so eligible 
as the parallelogram of the ancients ; at least, I 
imagine it is not so proper for the outside. For 
supposing the arms of the cross every way equal, 
if you stand in a direction parallel to any of the 
side walls, or colonnades, instead of a deception 
that makes the building more extended than it is, 
you are cut off from a considerable part (two thirds) 
of its actual length ; and to prevent all possibility 
of progression, the arms of the cross taking a 
new direction, make a right angle with the beam, 
and thereby wholly turn the imagination from the 
repetition of the former idea. Or suppose the 
spectator placed where he may take a direct view 
of such a building, what will be the consequence ? 
the necessary consequence will be, that a good 
part of the basis of each angle, formed by the in- 
tersection of the arms of the cross, must be in- 
evitably lost ; the whole must of course assume a 
broken unconnected figure ; the lights must be 
unequal, here strong, and there weak; without 
that noble gradation, which the perspective always 
effects on parts disposed uninterruptedly in a right 


Magnitude in Bnilding. 

line. Some or all of these objections will lie 
against every figure of a cross, in whatever view 
you take it. I exemplified them in the Greek 
cross, in which these faults appear the most strong- 
ly ; but they appear in some degree in all sorts of 
crosses. Indeed there is nothing more prejudicial 
to the grandeur of buildings, than to abound in 
angles ; a fault obvious in many ; and owing to an 
inordinate thirst for variety, which, whenever it 
prevails, is sure to leave very little true taste. 



TO the sublime in building, greatness of dimen- 
sion seems requisite ; for on a few parts, and those 
small, the imagination cannot rise to any idea of 
infinity. No greatness in the manner can eff'ec- 
tually compensate for the want of proper dimen- 
sions. There is no danger of drawing men into 
extravagant designs by this rule; it carries its own 
caution along with it. Because too great a length 
in buildings destroys the purpose of greatness, 
which it was intended to promote ; the perspective 
will lessen it in height as it gains in length; and 


Magnitude in Bailding. 

will bring it at last to a point; turning the whole 
figure into a sort of triangle, the poorest in its 
effect of almost any figure that can be presented 
to the eye. I have ever observed, that colonnades 
and avenues of trees, of a moderate length, were, 
without comparison, far grander, than when they 
were suffered to run to immense distances. A 
true artist should put a generous deceit on the 
spectators, and effect the noblest designs by easy 
methods. Designs that are vast only by their di- 
mensions, are always the sign of a common and 
low imagination. No work of art can be great, 
but as it deceives ; to be otherwise is the prero- 
gative of nature only. A good eye will fix the 
medium betwixt an excessive length or height (for 
the same objection lies against both), and a short 
or broken quantity ; and perhaps it might be as- 
certained to a tolerable degree of exactness, if it 
was my purpose to descend far into the particulars 
of any art. 



lufiiiity in pleasing objects. Difficulty. 



INFINITY, though of another kind, causes much 
of our pleasure in agreeable, as well as of our 
delight in sublime images. The spring is the 
pleasantest of the seasons ; and the young of 
most animals, though far from being completely 
fashioned, afford a more agreeable sensation than 
the full-grown ; because the imagination is enter- 
tained with the promise of something more, and 
does not acquiesce in the present object of the 
sense. In unfinished sketches of drawing, I have 
often seen something which pleased me beyond the 
best finishing ; and this I believe proceeds from 
the cause I have just now assigned. 



ANOTHER* source of greatness is difficulty. 

When any work seems to have required immense 

force and labour to effect it, the idea is grand. 

* Part IV. sect. 4, 5, 6. 



Stonehenge, neither for disposition nor ornament, 
has anything admirable ; but those huge rude 
masses of stone, set on end, and piled each on 
other, turn the mind on the immense force neces- 
sary for such a work. Nay, the rudeness of the 
work increases this cause of grandeur, as it ex- 
cludes the idea of art and contrivance ; for dexte- 
rity produces another sort of effect, which is 
different enough from this. 



MAGNIFICENCE is likewise a source of the 
sublime. A great profusion of things, which are 
splendid or valuable in themselves, is magnificent. 
The starry heaven, though it occurs so very fre- 
quently to our view, never fails to excite an idea 
of grandeur. This cannot be owing to anything in 
the stars themselves, separately considered. The 
number is certainly the cause. The apparent disor- 
der augments the grandeur, for the appearance of 
care is highly contrary to our ideas of magnificence. 
Besides, the stars lie in such apparent confusion, a» 



makes it imposible on ordinary occasions to reckon 
them. This gives them the advantage of a sort 
of infinity. In works of art, this kind of grandeur, 
which consists in multitude, is to be very cauti- 
ously admitted ; because a profusion of excellent 
things is not to be attained, or with too much diffi- 
culty ; and because, in many cases, this splendid 
confusion would destroy all use, which should be 
attended to in most of the works of art with the 
greatest care ; besides, it is to be considered, that 
unless you can produce an appearance of infinity 
by your disorder, you will have disorder only, 
without magnificence. There are, however, a sort 
of fire-works, and some other things, that in this 
way succeed well, and are truly grand. There are 
also many descriptions in the poets and orators, 
which owe their sublimity to a richness and profu- 
sion of images, in which the mind is so dazzled as 
to make it impossible to attend to that exact cohe- 
rence and agreement of the allusions, which we 
should require on every other occasion. I do not 
now remember a more striking example of this, 
than the description which is given of the king's 
army in the play of Henry the Fourth. 



Allfurnislid, all in arms. 

All plum' d like ostriches that with the wind 
Baited like eagles having lately bathed ; 
As full of spirit as the month of Mag y 
And gorgeous as the sun in midsummer ; 
Wanton as youthful goats, wild as young bulls. 
I saw young Hari-y ivith his beaver on, 
Jtisefrom the ground like feathered Mercury ; 
And vaulted with such ease into his seat, 
As if an angel dropped from the clouds, 
To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus. 

In that excellent book, so remarkable for the 
vivacity of its descriptions, as well as the solidity 
and penetration of its sentences, the Wisdom of 
the son of Sirach, there is a noble panegyric on the 
high priest Simon the son of Onias ; and it is a 
very fine example of the point before us : 

'' How was he honoured in the midst of the people, 
in his coming out of the sanctuary ! He was as the 
morning star in the midst of a cloud, and as the moon 
at the full; as the sun shining upon the temple of the 
Most High, and as the rainbow giving light in the 
bright clouds: and as the flower of roses in the spring 
of the year ; as lilies by the rivers of waters, and as 



tJie frankincense tree in summer; as fire and incense 
in the censer, and as a vessel of gold set with precious 
stones ; as a fair olive tree budding forth fruit, and 
as a cypress which groweth up to the clouds. When 
he put on tlie robe of honour, and icas clothed with 
the perfection of glory, when he went up to the holy 
altar, he made the garment of holiness honourable. 
He himself stood by the hearth of the altar, compassed 
icith his brethren round about ; as a young cedar in 
Libanus, and as palm trees compassed they him about.. 
So were all the sons of Aaron in their glory, and the 
oblations of the Lmd in their hands,'' Sfc, 



HAVING considered extension, so far as it i>} 
capable of raising ideas of greatness ; colour comes 
next under consideration. All colours depend on 
light. Light therefore ought previously to be exa- 
mined ; and with it, its opposite, darkness. With 
regard to light, to make it a cause capable of 
producing the sublime, it must be attended with 
some circumstances, besides its bare faculty ot 
showing other objects. Mere light is too common 



a thing to make a strong impression on the mind, 
and without a strong impression nothing can be 
sublime. But such a light as that of the sun, im- 
mediately exerted on the eye, as it overpowers the 
sense, is a very great idea. Light of an inferior 
strength to this, if it moves with great celerity, has 
the same power; for lightning is certainly pro- 
ductive of grandeur, which it owes chiefly to the 
extreme velocity of its motion. A quick transi- 
tion from light to darkness, or from darkness to 
light, has yet a greater effect. But darkness is 
more productive of sublime ideas than light. Our 
great poet was convinced of this ,* and indeed so 
full was he of this idea, so entirely possessed with 
the power of a well-managed darkness, that in 
describing the appearance of the Deity, amidst 
that profusion of magnificent images which the 
grandeur of his subject provokes him to pour out 
upon every side, he is far from forgetting the 
obscurity which surrounds the most incomprehen-- 
sible of all beings, but 

With the majesty of darkness round 

Circles his throne. 

And what is no less remarkable, our author had 



the secret of preserving this idea, even when he 
seemed to depart the farthest from it, when he 
describes the light and glory which flows from the 
Divine presence ; a light which by its very excess 
is converted into a species of darkness. 

Dark with excessive light thy skirts appear. 

Here is an idea not only poetical in a high degree, 
but strictly and philosophically just. Extreme 
light, by overcoming the organs of sight, obliterates 
all objects, so as in its effect exactly to resemble 
darkness. After looking some time at the sun, 
two black spots, the impression which it leaves, 
seem to dance before our eyes. Thus are two 
ideas as opposite as can be imagined reconciled 
in the extremes of both ; and both in spite of their 
opposite nature brought to concur in producing 
the sublime. And this is not the only instance 
wherein the opposite extremes operate equally 
in favour of the sublime, which in all things abhors 

AND BEAtfTlFUL. 113 

Light in Building. 



AS the management of light is a matter of im- 
portance in architecture, it is worth inquiring; how 
far this remark is applicable to building. I think, 
then, that all edifices calculated to produce an idea 
of the sublime j ought rather to be dark and gloomy, 
and this for two reasons; the first is, that darkness 
itself, on other occasions, is known by experience 
to have a greater eff'ect oh the passions than light. 
The second is, that to nlake an object rery strik- 
ing, we should make it as diflferent as possible 
from the objects with which we have been imme- 
diately conversant; when therefore you enter a 
building, you cannot pass into a greater light than 
you had in the open air ; to go into one some few 
degrees less luminous, can make only a trifling 
change; but to make the transition thoroughly strik- 
ing, you ought to pass from the greatest light, 4o 
as much darkness as is consistent with the uses of 
architecture. At night the contrary- rule will bold, 
but for the very sattte reason ; and the more highly 
a room is then illuminated, the grander will the 
passion be. nui -^iu-. . .> . 


Colour considered as productive of the Sublime. 



AMONG colours, such as are soft or cheerful (ex- 
cept perhaps a strong red which is cheerful) are 
unfit to produce grand images. An immense moun- 
tain, covered with a shining green turf, is nothing, 
in this respect to one dark and gloomy ; the cloudy- 
sky is more grand than the blue ; and night more 
sublime and solemn than day. Therefore in histo- 
rical painting, a gay or gaudy drapery can never 
have a happy effect : and in buildings, when the 
highest degree of the sublime is intended, the ma- 
terials and ornaments ought neither to be white, 
nor green, nor yellow, nor blue, nor of a pale red, 
nor violet nor spotted, but of sad and fuscous co- 
lours, as black, or brown, or deep purple, and the 
like. Much of gilding, mosaics, painting, or sta- 
tues, contribute but little to the sublime. This rule 
need not be put in practice, except where an uniform 
degree of the most striking sublimity is to be produ- 
ced, and that in every particular ; for it ought to be 
observed, that this melancholy kind of greatness, 


Sound and Loadness. 

though it be certainly the highest, ought not to be 
studied in all sorts of edifices, where yet grandeur 
must be studied ; in such cases, the sublimity must 
be drawn from the other sources ; with a strict 
caution however against anything light and riant ; 
as nothing so effectually deadens the whole taste 
of the sublime. 



THE eye is not the only organ of sensation by 
which a sublime passion may be produced. Sounds 
have a great power in these as in most other pas- 
sions. I do not mean words, because words do 
not affect simply by their sounds, but by means al- 
together different. Excessive loudness alone is 
sufficient to overpower the soul, to suspend its ac- 
tion, and to fill it with terror. The noise of vast 
cataracts, raging storms, thunder, or artillery, 
awakes a great and awful sensation in the mind, 
though we can observe no nicety or artifice in those 
sorts of music. The shouting of multitudes has a 
similar effect ; and, by the sole strength of the 
sound, so amazes and confounds the imagination , 



that, in this staggering, and hurry of the mind, the 
best established tempers can scarcely forbear being 
borne down, and joining in the common cry, and 
common resolution of the crowd. 



A SUDDEN beginning, or sudden cessation, of 
sound of any considerable force, has the same 
power. The attention is roused by this ; and the 
faculties driven forward, as it were on their guard. 
Whatever either in sights or sounds makes the 
transition from one extreme to the other easy, cau- 
ses no terror, and consequently can be no cause of 
greatness. In everything sudden and unexpected, 
we are apt to start ; that is, we have a perception 
of danger, and our nature rouses us to guard against 
it. It may be observed that a single sound of some 
strength, though but of short duration, if repeated 
after intervals, has a grand effect. Few things are 
more awful than tlie striking of a great clock, when 
the silence of the night prevents the attention from 
being too much dissipated. The same may be said 
of a single stroke on a drum, repeated with pau- 



ses ; and of the successive firing of cannon at a 
distance. All the effects mentioned in this section 
have causes very nearly alike. 



A LOW, tremulous, intermitting sound, though it 
seems in some respects opposite to that just men- 
tioned, is productive of the sublime. It is worth 
while to examine this a little. The fact itself must 
be determined by every man's own experience and 
reflexion. I have already observed, that * night 
increases our terror, more perhaps than anything 
else ; it is our nature, when we do not know what 
may happen to us, to fear the worst that can hap- 
pen; and hence it is, that uncertainty is so terrible, 
that we often seek to be rid of it, at the hazard of 
a certain mischief. Now, some low, confused, un- 
certain sounds leave us in the same fearful anxiety 
concerning their causes, that no light, or an uncer- 
tain light, does concerning the objects that sur- 
rouml us. ; I u kij so 

* Sect. S. ' • '-- ^' ' •^' '■''■■ 


The Cries of Animals. 

Qual^ ^er incertam Imiam sub luce maligna 
Est iter in sylvis. 

A faint shadow of uncertain light. 

., Like as a lamp, whose life doth fade away ; 
Or as the moon, clothed with cloudy night, 
Doth show to him who walks in fear and great 


But a light now appearing, and now leaving us, 
and so off and on, is even more terrible than total 
darkness ; and a sort of uncertain sounds are, 
when the necessary dispositions concur, more 
alarming than a total silence. 



SUCH sounds as imitate the natural inarticulate 
voices of men, or any animals, in pain or danger^ 
are capable of conveying great ideas ; unless it be 
the well-known voice of some creature, on which 
we are used to look with contempt. The angry tones 
of wild beasts are equally capable of causing a 
great and awful sensation. 


Smell and Taste. Bitters and Stenches. 

Hinc exaudiri gemitus, irceque leonum 
Vincla recusantum, et sera sub node rudentum ; 
Setigeriqiie mes, atqtie in prcesepibus ursi 
Scevire ; etformce magnorum ululare luparum. 

It might seem that these modulations of sound carrj' 
some connexion with the nature of the things they 
represent, and are not merely arbitrary ; because 
the natural cries of all animals, even of those ani- 
mals with whom we have not been acquainted, 
never fail to make themselves sufficiently under- 
stood; this cannot be said of language. The mo- 
difications of sound, which may be productive of 
the sublime, are almost infinite. Those I have 
mentioned, are only a few instances to show on 
what principles they are all built. 



SMELLS and Tastes, have some share too in ideas 
of greatness ; but it is a small one, weak in its na- 
ture, and confined in its operations. I shall only 
observe, that no smells or tastes can produce a 
grand sensation, except excessive bitters, and in- 


Smell and T^ste. Bitters and Stenches. 

tolerable stenches. It is true, that these affections 
of the smell and taste, when they are in their full 
force, and lean directly upon the sensory, are sim- 
ply painful, and accompanied with no sort of de- 
light ; but when they are moderated, as in a de- 
scription or narrative, they become sources of the 
sublime, as genuine as any other, and upon the 
very same principle of a moderated pain. " A cup 
of bitterness ;" '' To drain the bitter cup of fortune ;" 
'' The bitter apples of Sodom;" these are all ideas 
suitable to a s^btUme description. Nov is this pas- 
sage of Virgil without sublimity, where the stench 
of the vapour in Albmiea conspires so happily with 
the sacred horror, anjl glogminess pf that prophetic 
forest ;-r-oj <9onfi.ja«i -.vor /j vino 9J;j .h^noiiaem 

At rex solicitus monstris oraculo Fauni 
Fatidici genitoris adit, lucosque sub alia 
Consulit Albunea, nemorum quce maxima sacro 
Fonte sonat ; sjevamque exhalat opaca Mephitim. 

In the sixth Isook, and in a very sublime descrip- 
tion, the poisonous exhalation of Acheron is not 
forgot, nor does it at all disagree with the other 
images amongst which it is introduced ; 


Smell and Taste. Bitters and Stenches. 

Spelunca alta/wif, vastoque immanis hiatu 
Scrupea, tuta lacu nigro, iiemoriimque tenebris, 
Quam super haud ulke poterant impune volantes 
Tendere iterpennis, talis sese halitus atris 
Faucibus efFundens supera ad convexa ferebat. 

I have added these examples, because some 
friends, for whose judgment I have great deference, 
were of opinion, that if the sentiment stood nakedly 
by itself, it would be subject, at first view, to bur- 
lesque and ridicule ; but this I imagine would prin- 
cipally arise from considering the bitterness and 
stench in company with mean and contemptible 
ideas, with which it must be owned they are often 
united ; such an union degrades the sublime in all 
other instances as well as in those. But it is one 
of the tests by which the sublimity of an image is 
to be tried, not whether it becomes mean when as- 
sociated with mean ideas ; but whether, when uni- 
ted with images of an allowed grandeur, the whole 
composition is supported with dignity. Things 
which are terrible are always great ; but when things 
possess disagreeable qualities, or such as have in- 
deed some deg^r^e of danger, but of a danger easily 


Feeling- Pain. 

overcome, they are merely odious, as toads and 



OF Feeling, little more can be said than that the 
idea of bodily pain, in all the modes and degrees 
of labour, pain, anguish, torment, is productive of 
the sublime; and nothing else in this sense can 
produce it. I need not give here any fresh in- 
stances, as those given in the former sections 
abundantly illustrate a remark, that in reality 
vrants only an attention to nature, to be made by 

Having thus run through the causes of the sub- 
lime with reference to all the senses, my first ob- 
servation (sect. 7.) will be found very nearly true ; 
that the sublime is an idea belonging to self-pre- 
servation ; that it is therefore one of the most af- 
fecting we have ; that its strongest emotion is an 
emotion of distress ; and that no * pleasure from a 

* Vide part I. sect. 6. 


Feeling. Pain. 

positive cause belongs to it. Numberless exam- 
ples, besides those mentioned, might be brought in 
support of these truths, and many perhaps useful 
consequences drawn from them — 

Sedfugit interea, fugit irrevocabile tempusy 
Singula dum capti circumvectamur amore. 










IT is my design to consider beauty as distinguished 
from the sublime ; and, in the course of the in- 
quiry, to examine how far it is consistent with it. 
But previous to this, we must take a short review 
of the opinions already entertained of this quality ; 
which I think are hardly to be reduced to any fixed 
principles ; because men are used to talk of beauty 
in a figurative manner, that is to say, in a manner 
extremely uncertain, and indeterminate. By beauty 
I mean that quality, or those qualities in bodies, by 
which they cause love, or some passion similar to 
it. I confine this definition to the merely sensible 
qualities of things, for the sake of preserving the 


Of Beauty. 

utmost simplicity in a subject which must always 
distract us, whenever we take in those various 
causes of sympathy which attach us to any per- 
sons or things from secondary considerations, and 
not from the direct force which they have merely 
on being viewed. I likewise distinguish love, by 
which I mean that satisfaction which arises to the 
mind upon contemplating anything beautiful, of 
whatsoever nature it may be, from desire or lust ; 
which is an energy of the mind, that hurries us on 
to the possession of certain objects, that do not 
affect us as they are beautiful, but by means alto- 
ther different. We shall have a strong desire for 
a woman of no remarkable beauty; whilst the 
greatest beauty in men, or in other animals, though 
it causes love, yet excites nothing at all of desire, 
which shows that beauty, and the. passion caused by 
beauty, which I call love, is different from desire, 
though desire may sometimes operate along with 
it; but it is to this latter that we must attribute 
those violent and tempestuous passions, and the 
consequent emotions of the body, which attend 
what is called love in some of its ordinary accep- 
tations, and not to the effects of beauty merely as 
it is such. 


Proportiou not the cause of beauty in vegetables. 



BEAUTY hath usually been said to consist in 
certain proportions of parts. On considering the 
matter, I have great reason to doubt, whether 
beauty be at all an idea belonging to proportion. 
Proportion relates almost wholly to convenience^ 
as every idea of order seems to do ; and it must 
therefore be considered as a creature of the un- 
derstanding, rather than a primary cause acting on 
the senses and imagination. It is not by the force 
of long attention and inquiry that we find any 
object to be beautiful ; beauty demands no as- 
sistance from our reasoning ; even the will is 
unconcerned; the appearance of beauty as effec- 
tually causes some degree of love in us, as the 
application of ice or fire produces the ideas of 
heat or cold. To gain something like a satisfactory 
conclusion in this point, it were well to examine 
what proportion is ; since several who make use 
of that word, do not always seem to understand 
very clearly the force of the term, nor to have very 


Proportion not the came of beauty in vegetables. 

distinct ideas concerning the thing itself. Pro- 
portion is the measure of relative quantity. Since 
all quantity is divisible, it is evident that every 
distinct part into which any quantity is divided, 
must bear some relation to the other parts, or to 
the whole. These relations give an origin to the 
idea of proportion. They are discovered by men- 
suration, and they are the objects of mathematical 
inquiry. But whether any part of any determi- 
nate quantity be a fourth, or a fifth, or a sixth, or 
a moiety of the whole ; or whether it be of equal 
length with any other part, or double its length, ot 
but one half, is a matter merely indifferent to the 
mind ; it stands neuter in the question ; and it is 
from this absolute indifference and tranquillity of 
the mind, that mathematical speculations derive 
some of their most considerable advantages ; be- 
cause there is nothing to interest the imagination ; 
because the judgment sits free and unbiassed to 
examine the point. All proportions, every ar- 
rangement of quantity, is alike to the understand- 
ing, because the same truths result to it from all ; 
from greater, from lesser, from equality, and in- 
equality. But surely beauty is no idea belonging 
to mensuration; nor has it anything to do with 


Proportion not the cause of Beauty iu Vegetables. 

calculation and geometry. If it had, we might 
then point out some certain measures which we 
could demonstrate to be beautiful, either as simply 
considered, or as related to others ; and we could 
call in those natural objects, for whose beauty we 
have no voucher but the sense, to this happy stand- 
ard, and confirm the voice of our passions by the 
determination of our reason. But since we have 
not this help, let us see whether proportion can in 
any sense be considered as the cause of beauty, as 
hath been so generally, and by some so confident- 
ly, affirmed. If proportion be one of the constitu- 
ents of beauty, it must derive that power either 
from some natural properties inherent in certain 
measures, which operate mechanically ; from the 
operation of custom, or from the fitness which some 
measures have to answer some particular ends of 
conveniency. Our business therefore is to inquire, 
whether the parts of those objects, which are found 
beautiful in the vegetable or animal kingdoms, are 
constantly so formed according to such certain 
measures, as may serve to satisfy us that their 
beauty results from those measures on the princi- 
ple of a natural mechanical cause ; or from custom ; 
or, in fine, from their fitness for any determinate 


Proportion not the cause of Beauty in Vegetables. 

purposes. I intend to examine this point under 
each of these heads in their order. But before I 
proceed further, I hope it will not be thought amiss, 
if I lay down the rules which governed me in this 
inquiry, and which have misled me in it, if I have 
gone astray. 1. If two bodies produce the same 
or a similar effect on the mind, and on examina- 
tion they are found to agree in some of their pro- 
perties, and to differ in others ; the common effect 
is to be attributed to the properties in which they 
agree, and not to those in which they differ. 2. 
Not to account for the effect of a natural object 
from the effect of an artificial object. 3. Not to 
account for the effect of any natural object from a 
conclusion of our reason concerning its uses, if a 
natural cause may be assigned. 4. Not to admit 
any determinate quantity, or any relation of quan- 
tity, as the cause of a certain effect, if the effect is 
produced by different or opposite measures and re- 
lations ; or if these measures and relations may 
exist, and yet the effect may not be produced. 
These are the rules which I have chiefly followed, 
whilst I examined into the power of proportion 
considered as a natural cause ; and these, if he 
thinks them just, I request the reader to carry with 


Proportion not the cause of Beauty in Vegetables. 

him throughout the following discussion ; whilst 
we inquire, in the first place, in what things we 
find this quality of beauty; next, to see whether 
in these we can find any assignable proportions, 
in such a manner as ought to convince us that our 
idea of beauty results from then^.. We shall con- 
sider this pleasing power, as it appears in vegeta- 
bles, in the inferior animals, and in man. Turn- 
ing our eyes to the vegetable creation, we find 
nothino; there so beautiful as flowers ; but flowers 
are almost of every sort of shape, and of every 
sort of disposition ; they are turned and fashioned 
into an infinite variety of forms ; and from these 
forms, botanists have given them their names, which 
are almost as various. What proportion do we dis- 
cover between the stalks and the leaves of flowers, 
or between the leaves and the pistils ? How does 
the slender stalk of the rose agree with the bulky 
head under which it bends? biit the rose is a beau- 
tiful flower; and can we undertake to say that it 
does not owe a great deal of its beauty even to that 
disproportion ? the rose is a large flower, yet it 
grows upon a small shrub ; the flower of the apple 
is very small, and grows upon a large tree ; yet the 
rose and the apple blossom are both beautiful, and 


Proportion not the cause of Beauty in Vegetables. 

the plants that bear them are most engagingly at- 
tired, notwithstanding this disproportion. What 
by general consent is allowed to be a more beau- 
tiful object than an orange tree, flourishing at once 
with its leaves, its blossoms, and its fruit? but it is 
in vain that we search here for any proportion be- 
tween the height, the breadth, or anything else 
concerning the dimensions of the whole, or con- 
cerning the relation of the particular parts to each 
other. I grant that we may observe in many flow- 
ers, something of a regular figure, and of a methodi- 
cal disposition of the leaves. The rose has such a 
figure and such a disposition of its petals ; but in 
an oblique view, when this figure is in a good 
measure lost, and the order of the leaves confound- 
ed, it yet retains its beauty ; the rose is even more 
beautiful before it is full blown ; and the bud, be- 
fore this exact figure is formed ; and this is not the 
only instance wherein method and exactness, the 
soul of proportion, are found rather prejudicial than 
serviceable to the cause of beauty. 


Proportion not the cause of Beauty in Animals. 



THAT proportion has but a small share in the 
formation of beauty, is full as evident among ani- 
mals. Here the greatest variety of shapes, and 
dispositions of parts are well fitted to excite this 
idea. The swan, confessedly a beautiful bird, has a 
neck longer than the rest of his body, and but a 
very short tail ; is this a beautiful proportion ? we 
must allow that it is. But then, what shall we say 
to the peacock, who has comparatively but a short 
neck, with a tail longer than the neck and the rest 
of the body taken together ? How many birds are 
there that vary infinitely from each of these stand- 
ards, and from every other which you can fix, with 
proportions different, and often directly opposite to 
each other ? and yet many of these birds are ex- 
tremely beautiful ; when upon considering them we 
find nothing in any one part that might determine 
us, a priori, to say what the others ought to be, 
nor indeed to guess anything about them, but what 
experience might show to be full of disappointment 


Proportiou not the cause of Beauty in Animals. 

and mistake. And with regard to the colours 
either of birds or flowers, for there is something 
similar in the colouring of both, whether they are 
considered in their extension or gradation, there is 
nothing of proportion to be observed. Some are of 
but one single colour ; others have all the colours 
of the rainbow ; some are of the primary colours, 
others are of the mixed ; in short, an attentive ob- 
server may soon conclude, that there is as little of 
proportion in the colouring as in the shapes of these 
objects. Turn next to beasts ; examine the head 
of a beatiful horse ; find what proportion that bears 
to his body, and to his limbs, and what relation 
these have to each other; and when you have 
settled these proportions as a standard of beautjs 
then take a dog or cat, or any other animal, and 
examine how far the same proportions between 
their heads and their necks, between those and the 
body, and so on, are found to hold; I think we 
may safely say, that they differ in every species, 
yet that there are individuals found in a great many 
species so differing, that have a very striking beau- 
ty. Now, if it be allowed that very different, and 
even contrary, forms and dispositions are consis- 
tent with beauty, it amounts, I believe, to a con- 


Proportion not the cause of Beauty in tbe Hnman Species. 

cession, that no certain measures operating^from a 
natural principle, are necessary to produce it, at 
least so far as the brute species is concerned. 



THERE are some parts of the human body that 
are observed to hold certain proportions to each 
other ; but before it can be proved, that the effici- 
ent cause of beauty lies in these, it must be shown, 
that wherever these are found exact, the person to 
whom they belong is beautiful ; I mean in the effect 
produced on the view, either of any member dis- 
tinctly considered, or of the wh6le body together. 
It must be likewise shown, that these parts stand in 
such a relation to each other, that the comparison 
between them may be easily made, and that the 
affection of the mind may naturally result from it. 
For my part, I have at several times very carefully 
examined many of those proportions, and found 
them hold very nearly, or altogether alike in many 
subjects, which were not only very different from 
one another, but where one has been very beauti- 


Proportion not the cause of Beanty in the Human Species. 

ful, ancl the other very remote from beauty. With 
regard to the parts which are found so proportion- 
ed, they are often so remote from each other, in 
situation, nature, and office, that I cannot see how 
they admit of any comparison, nor, consequently, 
how any effect owing to proportion can result from 
them. The neck, say they, in beautiful bodies, should 
measure with the calf of the leg ; it should like- 
wise be twice the circumference of the wrist. And 
an infinity of observations of this kind are to be 
found in the writings and conversations of many. 
But what relation has the calf of the leg to the 
neck ; or either of these parts to the wrist ? These 
proportions are certainly to be found in handsome 
bodies. They are as certainly in ugly ones ; as 
any who will take the pains to try may find. 
Nay, I do not know but they may be least per- 
fect in some of the most beautiful. You may 
assign any proportions you please to every part 
of the human body ; and I undertake that a 
painter shall religiously observe them all, and 
notwithstanding, produce, if he pleases, a very 
ugly figure. The same painter shall considerably 
deviate from these proportions, and produce a very 
beautiful one. And indeed it may be observed 


Proportion not the cause of Beauty in the Human Species. 

in the master-pieces of the ancient and modern 
statuary, that several of them differ very widely 
from the proportions of others, in parts very con- 
spicuous, and of great consideration ; and that they 
differ no less from the proportions we find in living 
men, of forms extremely striking and agreeable. 
And, after all, how are the partizans of propor- 
tional beauty agreed amongst themselves about the 
proportions of the human body ? some hold it to be 
seven heads ; some make it eight ; whilst others ex- 
tend it even to ten ; a vast difference in such a small 
number of divisions ! Others take other metho<ls 
of estimating the proportions, and all with equal 
success. But are these proportions exactly the 
same in all handsome men ? or are they at all the 
proportions found in beautiful women ? nobody will 
say that they are ; yet both sexes are undoubtedly 
capable of beauty, and the female of the greatest ; 
which advantage I believe will hardly be attri- 
buted to the superior exactness of proportion in the 
fair sex. Let us rest a moment on this point, and 
consider how much difference there is between the 
measures that prevail in many similar parts of the 
body, in the two sexes of this single species only. 
If you assign any determinate proportions to the 


Proportion not the cause of Beauty in the Human Species. 

limbs of a man, and if you limit human beauty to 
these proportions, when you find a woman who 
differs in the make and measures of almost every 
part, you must conclude her not to be beautiful, in 
spite of the suggestions of your imagination; or, in 
obedience to your imagination, you must renounce 
your rules ; you'must lay by the scale and compass, 
and look out for some other cause of beauty. For 
if beauty be attached to certain measures which 
operate from a princijyle in nature, why should si- 
milar parts with different measures of proportion 
be found to have beauty, and this too in the very 
same species ? But to open our view a little, it 
is worth observing, that almost all animals have 
parts of very much the same nature and destined 
nearly to the same purposes ; a head, neck, body, 
feet, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth; yet Provi- 
dence, to provide in the best manner for their se- 
veral wants, and to display the riches of His wis- 
dom and goodness in his creation, has worked out 
of these few and similar organs, and members, a 
diversity hardly short of infinite in their disposition, 
measures, and relation. But, as we have before 
observed ; amidst this infinite diversity, one parti- 
cular is common to many species ; several of the in- 


Proportion not the cause of Beauty in the Human Species. 

dividuals which compose them are capable of af- 
fecting us with a sense of loveliness ; and whilst 
they agree in producing this effect, they differ ex- 
tremely in the relative measures of those parts 
which have produced it. These considerations 
were sufficient to induce me to reject the notion of 
any particular proportions that operated by nature 
to produce a pleasing effect ; but those who will 
agree with me with regard to a particular propor- 
tion, are strongly prepossessed in favour of one 
more indefinite. They imagine, that although beau- 
ty in general is annexed to no certain measures, 
common to the several kinds of pleasing plants and 
animals, yet that there is a certain proportion in 
each species absolutely essential to the beauty of 
that particular kind. If we consider the animal 
world in general, we find beauty confined to no 
certain measures ; but as some peculiar measure 
and relation of parts is what distinguishes each pe- 
culiar class of animals, it must of necessity be, that 
the beautiful in each kind will be found in the mea- 
sures and proportions of that kind ; for otherwise 
it would deviate from its proper species, and be- 
come in some sort monstrous : however, no species 
is so strictly confined to any certain proportions 


Proportiou not the cause of Beauty in the Human Species. 

that there is not a considerable variation amongst 
the individuals ; and as it has been shown of [the 
human, so it may be shown of the brute kinds, 
that beauty is found indifferently in all the propor- 
tions which each kind can admit, without quitting 
its common form ; and it is this idea of a common 
form that makes the proportion of parts at all re- 
garded, and not the operation of any natural cause : 
indeed a little consideration will make it appear, 
that it is not measure but manner that creates all 
the beauty which belongs to shape. What light 
do we borrow from these boasted proportions, when 
we study ornamental design ? It seems amazing 
to me, that artists, if they were as well convinced 
as they pretend to be, that proportion is a princi- 
pal cause of beauty, have not by them at all times 
accurate measurements of all sorts of beautiful ani- 
mals to help them to proper proportions, when they 
would contrive anything elegant, especially as they 
frequently assert, that it is from an observation of 
the beautiful in nature they direct their practice. 
I know that it has been said long since, and echoed 
backward and forward from one writer to another 
a thousand times, that the proportions of building 
have been taken from those of the human body. 


Proportion not the cause of Beauty ia the Human Species. 

To make this forced analogy complete, they repre- 
sent a man with his arms raised and extended at 
full length, and then describe a sort of square as it 
is termed by passing lines along the extremities of 
this strange figure. But it appears very clearly to 
me, that the human figure never supplied the archi- 
tect with any of his ideas. For, in the first place, 
men are very rarely seen in this strained posture ; 
it is not natural to them ; neither is it at all becom- 
ing. Secondly, the view of the human figure so 
disposed, does not naturally suggest the idea of a 
square, but rather of a cross ; as that ferge space 
between the arms and the ground, must be filled 
with something before it can make anybody think 
of a square. Thirdly, several buildings are by no 
means of the form of that particular square, which 
are nothwithstanding planned by the best architects, 
and produce an effect altogether as good, and per- 
haps a better. And certainly nothing could be 
more unaccountably whimsical, than for an archi- 
tect to model his performance by the human figure 
since no two things can have less resemblance or 
analogy, than a man and a house or temple ; do 
we need to observe, that their purposes are entire- 
ly different ? What I am apt to suspect is this i 


Proportion not the cause of Beauty ii ♦he Human Species. 

that these analogies were devised to give a credit 
to the works of art, by showing a conformity be- 
tween them and the noblest works in nature ; not 
that the latter served at all to supply hints for the 
perfection of the former. And I am the more ful- 
ly convinced, that the patrons of proportion have 
transferred their artificial ideas to nature, and not 
borrowed from thence the proportions they use in 
works of art ; because, in any discussion of this 
subject, they always quit as soon as possible the 
open field of natural beauties, the animal and ve- 
getable kingdoms, and fortify themselves within 
the artificial lines and angles of architecture. For 
there is in mankind an unfortunate propensity to 
make themselves, their views, and their works, the 
measure of excellence in everything whatsoever. 
Therefore having observed that their dwellings 
were most commodious and firm when tliey were 
thrown into regular figures, with parts answerable 
to each other; they transferred these ideas to 
their gardens ; they turned their trees into pillars, 
pyramids, and obelisks ; they formed their hedges 
into so many green walls, and fashioned the 
walks into squares, triangles and other mathema- 
tical figures, with exactness and symmetry ; and 


Proportion not the cause of Beaaty in the Human Species. 


they thought, if they were not imitating, they 
were at least improving nature, and teaching her 
to know her business. But nature has at last es- 
caped from their discipline and their fetters ; and 
our gardeus, if nothing €lse, declare we begin to 
feel that mathematical ideas are not the true mea- 
sures of beauty. And surely they are full as little 
so in the animal, as the vegetable world. For is it 
not extraordinary, that in these fine descriptive 
pieces, these innumerable odes and elegies which 
are in the mouths of all the world, and many of 
which have been the entertainment of ages, that in 
these pieces which describe love with such a pas- 
sionate energy', and represent its object in such an 
infinite variety of lights, not one word is said of 
proportion, if it be, what some insist it is, the prin- 
cipal component of beauty ; whilst at the same time 
several other qualities are very frequently and 
warmly mentioned? But if proportion has not this 
power, it may appear odd how men came original- 
ly to be so prepossessed in its favour. It arose, I 
imagine, from the fondness I have just mentioned, 
which men bear so remarkably to their own works 
and notions ; it arose from false reasonings on the 
effects of the customary figure of animals ; it arose 


Proportion not the cause of Beaaty in the Human Species. 

from the Platonic theory of fitness and aptitude. 
For which reason, in the next section, I shall con- 
sider the effects of custom in the figure of animals ; 
and afterwards the idea of fitness ; since, if propor- 
tion does not operate by a natural power attending- 
some measures, it must be either by custom, or the 
idea of utility ; there is no other way. 



IF I am not mistaken, a great deal of the prejudice 
in favour of proportion, has arisen, not so much 
from the observation of any certain measures 
found in beautiful bodies, as from a wrong idea of 
the relation which deformity bears to beauty, to 
which it has been considered as the opposite ; on 
this principle it was concluded, that where the cau- 
ses of deformity were removed, beauty must natu- 
rally and necessarily be introduced. This I believe 
is a mistake. For deformity is opposed not to beau- 
ty, but to the comj)lete cotnmon form. If one of the 
legs of a man be found shorter than the other, the 
man is deformed ; because there is something want- 
ing to complete the whole idea we form of a man i 


Proportion further considered. 

and this has the same effect in natural faults, 
as maiming and mutilation produce from acci- 
dents. So if the back be humped, the man is 
deformed ; because his back has an unusual figure, 
and what carries with it the idea of some disease 
or misfortune ; so if a man's neck be considerably 
longer or shorter than usual, we say he is deformed 
in that part, because men are not commonly made 
in that manner. But surely every hour^s expe- 
rience may convince us, that a man may have 
his legs of an equal length, and resembling each 
other in all respects, and his neck of a just size, 
and his back quite straight, without having at the 
same time the least perceivable beauty. Indeed 
beauty is so far from belonging to the idea of cus- 
tom, that in reality what affects us in that manner 
is extremely rare and uncommon. The beautiful 
strikes us as much by its novelty as the deformed 
itself. It is thus in those species of animals with 
which we are acquainted; and if one of a new spe- 
cies were represented, we should by no means wait 
until custom had settled an idea of proportion, before 
we decided concerning its beauty or ugliness : 
which shows that the general idea of beauty can 
be no more owing to customary than to natural 


Proportion further considered. 

proportion. Deformity arises from the want of the 
common proportions ; but the necessary result of 
their existence in any object is not beauty. If we 
suppose proportion in natural things to be relative 
to custom and use, the nature of use and cus- 
tom will show, that beauty, which is a positive 
and powerful quality, cannot result from it. We 
are so wonderfully formed, that, whilst we are 
creatures vehemently desirous of novelty, we are 
as strongly attached to habit and custom. But it 
is tbe nature of things which hold us by custom, to 
affect us very little whilst we are in possession of 
them, but strongly when they are absent. I re- 
member to have frequented a certain place, every 
day for a long time together ; and I may truly say, 
that so far from finding pleasure in it, I was affect- 
ed with a sort of weariness and disgust ; I came, 
I went, I returned, without pleasure ; yet if by 
any means I passed by the usual time of my going 
thither, I was remarkably uneasy, and was not 
quiet till I had got into my old track. They who 
use snuff, take it almost without being sensible that 
they take it, and the acute sense of smell is dead- 
ened, so as to feel hardly anything from so sharp a 
stimulus ; yet deprive the snufF-taker of his box. 



Proportion further considered. 

and he is the most uneasy mortal in the world. 
Indeed so far are use and habit from being causes 
of pleasure, merely as such, that the effect of con- 
stant use is to make all things of whatever kind 
entirely unaffecting. For as use at last takes off 
the painful effect of many things, it reduces the 
pleasurable effect of others in the same manner, 
and brings both to a sort of mediocrity and indif- 
ference. Very justly is use called a second nature ; 
and our natural and common state is one of abso- 
lute indifference, equally prepared for pain or plea- 
sure. But when we are thrown out of this state, 
or deprived of anything requisite to maintain us in 
it; when this chance does not happen by pleasure 
from some mechanical cause, we are always hurt. 
It is so with the second nature, custom, in all things 
which relate to it. Thus the want of the usual 
proportions in men and other animals is sure to 
disgust, though their presence is by no means any 
cause of real pleasure. It is true, that the propor- 
tions laid down as causes of beauty in the human 
body, are frequently found in beautiful ones, be- 
cause they are generally found in all mankind ; 
but if it can be shown too, that they are found 
without beauty, and that beauty frequently exists 


Fitness not the cause of Beauty. 

without them, and that this beauty, where it exists, 
always can be assigned to other less equivocal 
causes, it will naturally lead us to conclude, that 
proportion and beauty are not ideas of the same 
nature. The true opposite to beauty is not dispro- 
portion or deformity, but ugliness ; and as it proceeds 
from causes opposite to those of positive beauty, 
we cannot consider it until we come to treat of that. 
Between beauty and ugliness there is a sort of me- 
diocrity, in which the assigned proportions are most 
commonly found ; but this has no eflfect upon the 



IT is said that the idea of utility, or of a part's be- 
ing well adapted to answer its end, is the cause of 
beauty, or indeed beauty itself. If it were not for 
this opinion, it had been impossible for the doctrine 
of proportion to have held its ground very long ; 
the world would be soon weary of hearing of mea- 
sures which related to nothing, either of a natural 
principle, or of a fitness to answer some end ; the 
idea which mankind most commonly conceive of 


Fitness uot the cause of Beauty. 

proportion, is the suitableness of means to certain 
ends, and, where this is not the question, very sel- 
dom trouble themselves about the eftect of diffe- 
rent measures of things. Therefore it was necessary 
for this theory to insist, that not only artificial, but 
natural objects took their beauty from the fitness 
of the parts for their several purposes. But in 
framing this theory, I am apprehensive that expe- 
rience was not sufficiently consulted. For, on that 
principle, the wedge -like snout of a swine, with its 
tough cartilage at the end, the little sunk eyes, and 
the whole make of the head, so well adapted to its 
offices of digging and rooting, would be extremely 
beautiful. The great bag hanging to the bill of a 
pelican, a thing highly useful to this animal, would 
be likewise as beautiful in our eyes. The hedge- 
hog, so well secured against all assaults by his 
prickly hide, and the porcupine with his missile 
quills, would be then considered as creatures of no 
small elegance. There are few animals whose parts 
are better contrived than those of a monkey ; he has 
the hands of a man, joined to the springy limbs of 
a beast ; he is admirably calculated for running, 
leaping, grappling, and climbing ; and yet there are 
few animals which seem to have less beauty in the 


Fitness not the cause of Beauty. 

eyes of all mankind. I need say little on the trunk 
of the elephant, of such various usefulness, and 
which is so far from contributing to his beauty. 
How well fitted is the wolf for running and leap- 
ing ! how admirably is the lion armed for battle ! 
but will any one therefore call the elephant, the 
wolf, and the lion, beautiful animals? I believe 
nobody will think the form of a man's legs so well 
adapted for running, as those of a horse, a dog, 
a deer, and several other creatures, at least they 
have not that appearance ; yet, I believe, a well 
fashioned human leg will be allowed far to exceed 
all these in beauty. If the fitness of parts was what 
constituted the loveliness of their form, the actual 
employment of them would undoubtedly much aug- 
ment it; but this, though it is sometimes so upon 
another principle, is far from being always the case. 
A bird on the wing is not so beautiful as when it 
is perched ; nay, there are several of the domestic 
fowls which are seldom seen to fly, and which are 
nothing the less beautiful on that account ; yet birds 
are so extremely diflferent in their form from the 
beast and human kinds, that you cannot, on the 
principle of fitness, allow them anything agreeable, 
but in consideration of their parts being designed for 


Fitness not the cause of Beauty. 

quite other purposes. I never in my life chanced to 
see a peacock fly ; and yet before, very long before 
I considered any aptitude in his form for the aerial 
life, I was struck with the extreme beauty which 
raises that bird above many of the best flying fowls 
in the world ; though, for anything I saw, his way 
of living was much like that of the swine, which 
fed in the farm-yard along with him. The same 
may be said of cocks, hens, and the like ; they are 
of the flying kind in figure ; in their manner of 
moving not very ditferent from men and beasts. To 
leave these foreign examples ; if beauty in our own 
species was annexed to use, men would be much 
more lovely than women ; and strength and agility 
would be considered as the only beauties. But te 
call strength by the name of beauty, to have but one 
denomination for the qualities of a Venus and 
Hercules, so totally different in almost all respects, 
is surely a strange confusion of ideas, or abuse of 
words. The cause of this confusion, I imagine, 
proceeds from our frequently perceiving the parts 
of the human and other animal bodies to be at once 
very beautiful, and very well adapted to their pur- 
poses ; and we are deceived by a sophism, which 
makes us take that for a cause which is only a 


The real effects of Fitness. 

concomitant : this is the sophism of the fly, who 
imagined he raised a great dust, because he stood 
upon the chariot that really raised it. The stomach, 
the lungs, the liver, as well as other parts, are in- 
comparably well adapted to their purposes ; yet 
they are far from having any beauty. Again, many 
things are very beautiful, in which it is impossible 
to discern any idea of use. And I appeal to the 
first and most natural feelings of mankind, whether, 
on beholding a beautiful eye, or a well-fashioned 
mouth, or a well-turned leg, any ideas of their being 
well fitted for seeing, eating, or running, ever pre- 
sent themselves. What idea of use is it that flowers 
excite, the most beautiful part of the vegetable 
world? It is true, that the infinitely wise and good 
Creator has, of his bounty, frequently joined beauty 
to those things which he has made useful to us ; 
but this does not prove that an idea of use and 
beauty are the same thing, or that they are any way 
dependant on each other. 



WHEN I excluded proportion and fitness from 
any share in beauty, I did not by any means intend 


The real effects of Fitness. 

to say that they were of no value, or that they 
ought to be disregarded in works of art. Works 
of art are the proper sphere of their power ; and 
here it is that they have their full effect. When- 
ever the wisdom of our Creator intended that we 
should be affected with anything, he did not con- 
fine the execution of his design to the languid and 
precarious operation of our reason ; but he endued 
it with powers and properties that prevent the un- 
derstanding, and even the will, which, seizing 
upon the senses and imagination, captivate the 
soul before the understanding is ready either to 
join with them, or to oppose them. It is by a long 
deduction and much study that we discover the 
adorable wisdom of God in his works : when we 
discover it, the effect is very different, not only in 
the manner of acquiring it, but in its own nature, 
from that which strikes us without any preparation 
from the sublime or the beautiful. How different 
is the satisfaction of an anatomist, who discovers 
the use of the muscles and of the skin, the excel- 
lent contrivance of the one for the various move- 
ments of the body, and the wonderful texture of 
the other, at once a general covering, and at once 
a general outlet as well as inlet ; how different is 


The real effects of Fitness. 

this from the affection which possesses an ordinary 
man at the sight of a delicate smooth skin, and all 
the other parts of beauty, which require no inves- 
tigation to be perceived! In the former case, 
whilst we look up to the Maker with admiration 
and praise, the object which causes it may be 
odious and distasteful; the latter very often so 
touches us by its power on the imagination, that 
we examine but little into the artifice of its con- 
trivance ; and we have need of a strong effort of 
our reason to disentangle our minds from the al- 
lurements of the object, to a consideration of that 
wisdom which invented so powerful a machine. 
The effect of proportion and fitness, at least so far 
as they proceed from a mere consideration of the 
work itself, produce approbation, the acquiescence 
of the understanding, but not love, nor any passion 
of that species. When we examine the structure 
of a watch, when we come to know thoroughly the 
use of every part of it, satisfied as we are with the 
fitness of the whole, we are far enough from per- 
ceiving anything like beauty in the watch-work 
itself; but let us look on the case, the labour of 
some curious artist in engraving, with little or no 
idea of use, we shall have a much livelier idea of 


The real effects of Fitness. 

beauty than we ever could have had from the 
watch itself, though the master-piece of Graham. 
In beauty, as I said, the effect is previous to any 
knowledge of the use ; but to judge of proportion, 
we must know the end for which any work is 
designed. According to the end, the proportion 
varies. Thus there is one proportion of a tower, 
another of a house ; one proportion of a gallery, 
another of a hall, another of a chamber. To judge 
of the proportions of these, you must be first ac- 
quainted with the purposes for which they were 
designed. Good sense and experience acting to- 
gether, find out what is fit to be done in every 
work of art. We are rational creatures, and in 
all our works we ought to regard their end and 
purpose ; the gratification of any passion, how 
innocent soever, ought only to be of secondary 
consideration. Herein is placed the real power 
of fitness and proportion ; they operate on the un- 
derstanding considering them, which approves the 
work and acquiesces in it. The passions, and the 
imagination which principally raises them, have 
here very little to do. When a room appears in its 
original nakedness, bare walls and a plain ceiling ; 
let its proportion be ever so excellent, it pleases 


The Recapitulation. 

very little ; a cold approbation is the utmost we 
can reach; a much worse-proportioned room with 
elegant mouldings and fine festoons, glasses, and 
other merely ornamental furniture, will make the 
imagination revolt against the reason ; it will please 
much more than the naked proportion of the first 
room, which the understanding has so much ap- 
proved, as admirably fitted for its purposes. What 
I have here said and before concerning proportion, 
is by no means to persuade people absurdly to 
neglect the idea of use in the works of art. It is 
only to show, that these excellent things, beauty 
and proportion, are not the same; not that they 
should either of them be disregarded. 



ON the whole ; if such parts in human bodies as 
are found proportioned, were likewise constantly 
found beautiful, as they certainly are not; or if 
they were so situated, as that a pleasure might flow 
from the comparison, which they seldom are ; or 
if any assignable proportions were found, either in 
plants or animals, which were always attended with 


Perfection not the cause of Beauty. 

beauty, which never was the case ; or if, where 
parts were well adapted to their purposes, they 
were constantly beautiful, and when no use ap- 
peared, there was no beauty, which is contrary to 
all experience; we might conclude, that beauty 
consisted in proportion or utility. But since, in 
all respects, the case is quite otherwise ; we may 
be satisfied that beauty does not depend on these, 
let it owe its origin to what else it will. 



THERE is another notion current, pretty closely 
allied to the former ; that perfection is the consti- 
tuent cause of beauty. This opinion has been made 
to extend much farther than to sensible objects. 
But in these, so far is perfection, considered as such, 
from being the cause of beauty, that this quality, 
where it is highest, in the female sex, almost always 
carries with it an idea of weakness and imperfec- 
tion. Women are very sensible of this ; for which 
reason, they learn to lisp, to totter in their walk, to 
counterfeit weakness, and even sickness. In all 
this they are guided by nature. Beauty in distress 


How far the idea of Beauty may be applied to the Qualities of the Mind. 

is much the most affecting beauty. Blushing has 
little less power; and modesty in general which is 
a tacit allowance of imperfection, is itself consi- 
dered as an amiable quality, and certainly height- 
ens every other that is so. I know it is in every 
body's mouth, that we ought to love perfection. 
This is to me a sufficient proof, that it is not the 
proper object of love. Who ever said we ought to 
love a fine woman, or even any of these beautiful 
animals which please us ? Here to be affected, 
there is no need of the concurrence of our will. 



NOR is this remark in general less applicable to 
the qualities of the mind. Those virtues which 
cause admiration, and are of the sublimer kind, 
produce terror rather that love ; such as fortitude, 
justice, wisdom, and the like. Never was any man 
amiable by force of these qualities. Those which 
engage our hearts, which impress us with a sense 
of loveliness, are the softer virtues ; easiness of 
temper, compassion, kindness, and liberality ; 


How far the idea of Beauty may be applied to the Qualities of the Mind. 

though certainly those latter are of less immediate 
and momentous concern to society, and of less 
dignity. But it is for that reason that they are so 
amiable. The great virtues turn principally on 
dangers, punishments, and troubles, and are ex- 
ercised rather in preventing the worst mischiefs, 
than in dispensing favours ; and are therefore not 
lovely, though highly venerable. The subordinate 
turn on reliefs, gratifications, and indulgences ; and 
are therefore more lovely, though inferior in dig- 
nity. Those persons who creep into the hearts of 
most people, who are chosen as the companions of 
their softer hours, and their reliefs from care and 
anxiety, are never persons of shining qualities nor 
strong virtues. It is rather the soft green of the 
soul on which we rest our eyes, that are fatigued 
with beholding more glaring objects. It is worth 
observing how we feel ourselves affected in reading 
the characters of Caesar and Cato, as they are so 
finely drawn and contrasted in Sallust. In one 
the ignoscendo largiundo ; in the other, nil largimido. 
In one the miseris perfugium ; in the other, malis 
peiniciem. In the latter we have much to admire, 
much to reverence, and perhaps something to fear; 
we respect him, but we respect him at a distance. 


How far the idea of Beauty may be applied to Virtue. 

The former makes us familiar with him ; we love 
him, and he leads us whither he pleases. To draw 
things closer to our first and most natural feelings, 
I will add a remark made upon reading this section 
by an ingenious friend. The authority of a father, 
so useful to our well-being, and so justly vene- 
rable upon all accounts, hinders us from having 
that entire love for him that we have for our mo- 
thers, where the parental authority is almost melt- 
ed down into the mother's fondness and indulgence. 
But we generally have a great love for our grand- 
fathers, in whom this authority is removed a degree 
from us, and where the weakness of age mellows 
it into something of a feminine partiality. 



FROM what has been said in the foregoing sec- 
tion, we may easily see, how far the application of 
beauty to virtue, may be made with propriety. 
The general application of this quality to virtue, 
has a strong tendency to confound our ideas of 
things ; and it has given rise to an infinite deal of 


The real cause of Beauty. 

whimsical theory; as the affixing the name of 
beauty to proportion, congruity, and perfection, 
as well as to qualities of things yet more remote 
from our natural ideas of it, and from one ano- 
ther has tended to confound our ideas of beauty, 
and left us no standard or rule to judge by, that 
was not even more uncertain and fallacious than 
our own fancies. This loose and inaccurate manner 
of speaking, has therefore misled us both in the 
theory of taste and of morals ; and induced us to 
remove the science of our duties from their proper 
basis (our reason, our relations, and our neces- 
sities), to rest it upon foundations altogether vision- 
ary and unsubstantial. 



HAVING endeavoured to show what beauty is 
not, it remains that we should examine, at least 
with equal attention, in what it really consists. 
Beauty is a thing much too affecting not to depend 
upon some positive qualities. And, since it is no 
creature of our reason, since it strikes us without 
any reference to use, and even where no use at all 



Beautiful objects small. 

can be discerned, since the order and method of 
nature is generally very different from our measures 
and proportions, we must conclude that beauty is, 
for th6 greater part, some quality in bodies acting 
mechanically upon the human mind by the inter- 
vention of the senses. We ought therefore to con- 
sider attentively in what manner those sensible 
qualities are disposed, in such things as by expe- 
rience we find beautiful, or which excite in us the 
passion of love, or some correspondent affection. 



THE most obvious point that presents itself to us 
in examining any object, is its extent or quantity. 
And what degree of extent prevails in bodies that 
are held beautiful, may be gathered from the usual 
manner of expression concerning it. I am told 
that, in most languages, the objects of love are 
spoken of under diminutive epithets. It is so in 
all the languages of which I have any knowledge. 
In Greek the luv and other diminutive terms are 
almost always the terms of affection and tenderness. 
These diminutives were commonly added by the 


Beautiful objects stnall. 

Greeks, to the names of persons with whom they 
conversed on the terms of friendship and familiarity. 
Though the Romans were a people of less quick 
and delicate feelings, yet they naturally slid into 
the lessening termination upon the same occasions. 
Anciently in the English language the diminishing 
ling was added to the names of persons and things 
that were the objects of love. Some we retain still, 
as darling (or little dear), and a few others. But 
to this day, in ordinary conversation, it is usual to 
add the endearing name of little to everj' thing we 
love : the French and Italians make use of these 
aflfectionate diminutives even more than we. In 
the animal creation, out of our own species, it is the 
small we are inclined to be fond of; little birds 
and some of the smaller kinds of beasts. A great 
beautiful thing is a manner of expression scarcely 
ever used ; but that of a great ugly thing, is very 
common. There is a wide difference between ad- 
miration and love. The sublime, which is the cause 
of the former, always dwells on great objects, and 
terrible ; the latter on small ones, and pleasing ; we 
submit to what we admire, but we love what sub- 
raits to us ; in one case we are forced, in the other 
we are flattered, into compliance. In short, the 



ideas of the sublime and the beautiful, stand on 
foundations so different, that it is hard, I had almost 
said impossible, to think of reconciling them in the 
same subject, without considerably lessening the 
effect of the one or the other upon the passions. So 
that, attending to their quantity, beautiful objects 
are comparatively small. 



THE next property constantly observable in such 
objects is * Smoothness: a quality so essential to 
beauty, that I do not now recollect anything beau- 
tiful that is not smooth. In trees and flowers, 
smooth leaves are beautiful ; smooth slopes of earth 
in gardens ; smooth streams in the landscape ; 
smooth coats of birds and beasts in animal beauties ; 
in fine women, smooth skins ; and in several sorts 
of ornamental furniture, smooth and polished sur- 
faces. A very considerable part of the effect of 
beauty is owing to this quality ; indeed the most 
considerable. For, take any beautiful object, and 
give it a broken and rugged surface, and however 
* Part IV. sect. 21. 


Gradual variation. 

well formed it may be in other respects, it pleases 
no longer. Whereas, let it want ever so many 
of the other constituents, if it wants not this, it 
becomes more pleasing than almost all the others 
without it. This seems to me so evident, that I 
am a good deal surprised, that none who have han- 
dled the subject have made any mention of the 
quality of smoothness, in the enumeration of those 
that go to the forming of beauty. For indeed any 
ruggedness, any sudden projection, any sharp 
angle, is in the highest degree contrary to that 



BUT as perfectly beautiful bodies are not com- 
posed of angular parts, so their parts never continue 
long in the same right line. *They vary their di- 
rection every moment, and they change under the 
eye by a deviation continually carrying on, but for 
whose beginning or end you will find it difficult 
to ascertain a point. The view of a beautiful bird 
will illustrate this observation. Here we see the 
* Part V. sect. 23. 


Gradual variation. 

head increasing insensibly to the middle, from 
whence it lessens gradually until it mixes with the 
neck ; the neck loses itself in a larger swell, which 
continues to the middle of the body, when the whole 
decreases again to the tail : the tail takes a new 
direction ; but it soon varies its new course : it 
blends again with the other parts : and the line is 
perpetually changing, above, below, upon every 
side. In this description I hiave before me the 
idea of a dove ; it agrees very well with most of 
the conditions of beauty. It is smooth and downy ; 
its parts are (to use that expression) melted into 
one another ; you are presented with no sudden 
protuberance through the whole, and yet the whole 
is continually changing. Observe that part of a 
beautiful woman where she is perhaps the most 
beautiful, about the neck and breasts ; the smooth- 
ness ; the softness ; the easy and insensible swell ; 
the variety of the surface, which is never for the 
smallest space the same ; the deceitful maze through 
which the unsteady eye slides giddily, without 
knowing where to fix, or whither it is carried. Is 
not this a demonstration of that change of surface, 
continual, and yet hardly perceptible at any point, 
which forms one of the great constituents of beauty ? 


Gradual variation. 

It gives me no small pleasure to find that I can 
strengthen my theory in this point, by the opinion 
of the very ingenious Mr. Hogarth ; whose idea 
of the line of beauty I take in general to ^be ex- 
tremely just. But the idea of variation, has led 
him to consider without attending so accurately to 
the manner of the variation, angular figures as 
beautiful ; these figures, it is true, vary greatly ; 
yet they vary in a sudden and broken manner ; and 
I do not find any natural object which is angular, 
and at the same time beautiful. Indeed few na- 
tural objects are entirely angular. But I think those 
which approach the most nearly to it are the ugli- 
est. I must add too, that, so far as I could ob- 
serve of nature, though the varied line is that alone 
in which complete beauty is found, yet there is no 
particular line which is always found in the most 
completely beautiful, and which is therefore beau- 
tiful in preference to all other lines. At least I 
never could observe it. 




AN air of robustness and strength is very prejudi- 
cial to beauty. An appearance of delicacy, and 
even of fragility, is almost essential to it. Whoever 
examines the vegetable or animal creation, will 
find this observation to be founded in nature. It 
is not the oak, the ash, or the elm, or any of the 
robust trees of the forest, which we consider as 
beautiful ; they are awful and majestic ; they inspire 
a sort of reverence. It is the delicate myrtle, it is 
the orange, it is the almond, it is the jasmine, it 
is the vine, which we look on as vegetable beau- 
ties. It is the flowery species, so remarkable 
for its weakness and momentary duration, that 
gives us the liveliest idea of beauty and elegance. 
Among animals, the greyhound is more beautiful 
than the mastiif ; and the delicacy of a genet, a 
barb, or an Arabian horse, is much more amiable 
than the strength and stability of some horses of 
war or carriage. I need here say little of the fair 
sex, where I believe the point will be easily al- 
lowed me. The beauty of women is considerably 
owing to their weakness or delicacy, and is even 


Beautv in colour. 

enhanced by their timidity, a quality of mind ana- 
logous to it. I would not here be understood to 
say, that weakness betraying very bad health has 
any share in beauty ; but the ill effect of this is not 
because it is weakness, but because the ill state of 
health which produces such weakness, alters the 
other conditions of beauty; the parts in such a 
case collapse ; the bright colour, the lumen purpu- 
reumjuventce, is gone ; and the fine variation is lost 
in wrinkles, sudden breaks, and right lines. 



AS to the colours usually found in beautiful 
bodies, it may be somewhat difficult to ascertain 
them, because, in the several parts of nature, there 
is an infinite variety. However, even in this 
variety, we may mark out something on which to 
settle. First, the colours of beautiful bodies must 
not be dusky or muddy, but clean and fair. Se- 
condly, they must not be of the strongest kind. 
Those which seem most appropriated to beauty, 
are the milder of every sort; light greens, soft 
blues ; weak whites ; pink reds ; and violets. 



Thirdly, if the colours be strong and vivid, they 
are always diversified, and the object is never of 
one strong colour ; there are almost] always such 
a number of them (as in variegated flowers), that 
the strength and glare of each is considerably 
abated. In a fine complexion, there is not only 
some variety in the colouring, but the colours : 
neither the red nor the white are strong and glar- 
ing. Besides, they are mixed in such a manner, 
and with such gradations, that it is impossible to 
fix the bounds. On the same principle it is, that the 
dubious colour in the necks and tails of peacocks, 
and about the heads of drakes, is so very agreeable. 
In reality, the beauty both of shape and colouring 
are as nearly related, as we can well suppose it 
possible for things of such different natures to be. 



ON the whole, the qualities of beauty, as they 
are merely sensible qualities, are the following. 
First, to be comparatively small. Secondly, to be 
smooth. Thirdly, to have a variety in the direc- 
tion of the parts ; but, fourthly, to have those parts 


The Physiognomy. 

not angular, but melted as it were into each other. 
Fifthly, to be of a delicate frame, without any re- 
markable appearance of strength. Sixthly, to have 
its colours clear and bright, but not very strong 
and glaring. Seventhly, or if it should have any 
glaring colour, to have it diversified vrith others. 
These are, I believe, the properties on which 
beauty depends ; properties that operate by nature, 
and are less liable to be altered by caprice, or con- 
founded by a diversity of tastes, than any other. 



THE Physiognomy has a considerable share in 
beauty, especially in that of our own species. The 
manners give a certain determination to the coun- 
tenance ; which being observed to correspond 
pretty regularly with them, is capable of joining 
the effects of certain agreeable qualities of the 
mind to those of the body. So that to form a 
finished human beauty, and to give it its full in- 
fluence, the face must be expressive of such gentle 
and amiable qualities, as correspond with the soft- 
ness, smoothness, and delicacy of the outward form. 


The Eye. 



I HAVE hitherto purposely omitted to speak of 
the Eye, which has so great a share in the beauty 
of the animal creation, as it did not fall so easily 
under the foregoing heads, though in fact it is redu- 
cible to the same principles. I think, then, that 
the beauty of the eye consists, first, in its cfe«r- 
wess;.what coloured eye shall please most, depends 
a good deal on particular fancies ; but none are 
pleased with an eye whose water (to use that term) 
is dull and muddy.* We are pleased with the eye 
in this view, on the principle upon which we like 
diamonds, clear water, glass, and such like trans- 
parent substances. Secondly, the motion of the 
eye contributes to its beauty by continually shifting 
its direction; but a slow and languid motion is 
more beautiful than a brisk one ; the latter is enli- 
vening ; the former lovely. Thirdly, with regard 
to the union of the eye with the neighbouring 
parts, it is to hold the same rule that is given of 
other [beautiful ones ; it is not to make a strong 
* Part IV. sect. 25. 



deviation from the line of the neighbouring parts ; 
nor to verge into any exact geometrical figure. 
Besides all this, the eye affects, as it is expressive 
of some qualities of the mind, and its principal 
povrer generally arises from this; so that what 
we have just said of the physiognomy is applicable 



IT may perhaps appear like a sort of repetition of 
what w^e have before said, to insist here upon the 
nature of Ugliness; as I imagine it to be in all 
respects the opposite to those qualities which we 
have laid down for the constituents of beauty. But 
though ugliness be the opposite to beauty, it is not 
the opposite to proportion and fitness. For it is 
possible that a thing may be very ugly with any 
pi-oportions, and with a perfect fitness to any 
uses. Ugliness I imagine likewise to be consistent 
enough with an idea of the sublime. But I would 
by no means insinuate that ugliness of itself is a 
sublime idea, unless united with such qualities as 
excite a strong terror. 


Gracefulness. Elegance and Speciousness. 



GRACEFULNESS is an idea not very different 
from beauty ; it consists in much the same things. 
Gracefulness is an idea belonging to posture and 
motion. In both these, to be graceful, it is requi- 
site that there be no appearance of difficulty ; there 
is required a small inflection of the body ; and a 
composure of the parts in such a manner, as not to 
encumber each other, not to appear divided by 
sharp and sudden angles. In this ease, this round- 
ness, this delicacy of attitude and motion, it is, 
that all the magic of grace consists, and what is 
called its je we sgai quoi; as will be obvious to any 
observer, who considers attentively the Venus de 
Medicis, the Antinous, or any statue generally 
allowed to be graceful in a high degree. 



WHEN any body is composed of parts smooth 
and polished, without pressing upon each other. 


The Beautiful in Feeling. 

without showing any ruggedness or confusion, and 
at the same time affecting some regular shape, I 
call it elegant. It is closely allied to the beauti- 
ful, differing from it only in this reguhnty ; which, 
however, as it makes a very material difference in 
the affection produced, may very well constitute 
another species. Under this head I rank those 
delicate and regular works of art, that imitate no 
determinate object in nature, as elegant buildings, 
and pieces of furniture. When any object partakes 
of the above-mentioned qualities, or of those of 
beautiful bodies, and is withal of great dimensions, 
it is full as remote from the idea of mere beauty ; 
I call it fine or specious. 



THE foregoing description of beauty, so far as it 
is taken in by the eye, may be greatly illustrated 
by describing the nature of objects, which produce 
a similar effect through the touch. This I call the 
beautiful in Feeling. It corresponds wonderfully 
with what causes the same species of pleasure to 
the sight. There is a chain in all our sensations ; 


The Beautiful in Feeliug. 

they are all but different sorts of feelings calcu- 
lated to be affected by various sorts of objects, 
but all to be affected after the same manner. All 
bodies that are pleasant to the touch, are so by the 
sliffhtness of the resistance they make. Resist- 
ance is either to motion along the surface, or to 
the pressure of the parts on one another : if the 
former be slight, we call the body smooth; if the 
latter, soft. The chief pleasure we receive by 
feeling, is in the one or the other of these qualities ; 
and if there be a combination of both, our pleasure 
is greatly increased. This is so plain, that it is 
rather more fit to illustrate other things, than to 
be illustrated itself by an example. The next 
source of pleasure in this sense, as in every other, 
is the continually presenting somewhat new ; and 
we find that bodies which continually vary their 
surface, are much the most pleasant or beautiful to 
the feeling, as any one that pleases may expe- 
rience. The third property in such objects is, that 
though the surface continually varies its direction, 
it never varies it suddenly. The application of any- 
thing sudden, even though the impression itself 
have little or nothing of violence, is disagreeable. 
The quick application of a linger a little warmer or 


The Beautiful in Feeling. 

colder than usual, without notice, makes us start ; 
a slight tap on the shoulder, not expected, has the 
same effect. Hence it is that angular bodies, 
bodies that suddenly vary the direction of the out- 
line, afford so little pleasure to the feeling. Every 
such change is a sort of climbing or falling in 
miniature ; so that squares, triangles, and other 
angular figures are neither beautiful to the sight 
nor feeling. Whoever compares his state of mind, 
on feeling soft, smooth, variegated, unangular 
bodies, with that in which he finds himself on the 
view of a beautiful object, will perceive a very 
striking analogy in the effects of both ; and which 
may go a good way towards discovering their 
common cause. Feeling and sight, in this respect, 
differ in but a few points. The touch takes in the 
pleasure of softness, which is not primarily an 
object of sight; the sight, on the other hand, com- 
prehends colour, which can hardly be made per- 
ceptible to the touch: the touch again has the 
advantage in a new idea of pleasure resulting 
from a moderate degree of warmth ; but the eye 
triumphs in the infinite extent and multiplicity of 
its objects. But there is such a similitude in the 
pleasures of these senses, that 1 am apt to fancy, 



The Beautiful iu Sound. 

if it were possible that one might discern colour by 
feeling (as it is said some blind men have done), 
that the same colours, and the same disposition of 
colouring, which are found beautiful to the sight, 
would be found likewise most grateful to the 
touch. But, setting aside conjectures, let us pass 
to the other sense ; of hearing. 



IN this sense we find an equal aptitude to be 
affected in a soft and delicate manner ; and how far 
sweet or beautiful sounds agree with our descrip- 
tions of beauty in other senses, the experience of 
every one must decide. Milton has described this 
species of music in one of his juvenile poems*. I 
need not say that Milton was perfectly well versed 
in that art ; and that no man had a finer ear, with 
a happier manner of expressing the affections of 
one sense by metaphors taken from another. The 
description is as follows : 

And ever against eating caresj 
Lap me in soft Lydian airs; 

* L'Alk'gro. 


The Beautiful iu Suuud. 

In notes ivith many a winding bout 
O/* linked sweetness long drawn out ; 
With ivanton heed, and giddy cunning , 
The melting voice through mazes running ; 
Untwisting all the chains that tie 
The hidden soul of harmony. 

Let us parallel this with the softness, the winding 
surface, the unbroken continuance, the easy gra- 
dation of the beautiful in other things ; and all the 
diversities of the several senses, with all their 
several affections, will rather help to throw lights 
from one another to finish one clear, consistent 
idea of the whole, than to obscure it by their intri- 
cacy and variety. 

To the above-mentioned description I shall add 
one or two remarks. The first is ; that the beau- 
tiful in music will not bear that loudness and 
strength of sounds, which may be used to raise 
other passions ; nor notes, which are shrill, or 
harsh, or deep : it agrees best with such as are 
clear, even, smooth, and weak. The second is ; 
that great variety, and quick transitions from one 
measure or tone to another, are contrary to the 


The Beautiful in Sound. 

genius of the beautiful iu music. Such* transitions 
often excite mirth, or other sudden and tumultuous 
passions; but not that sinking, that melting, that 
languor, which is the characteristical effect of the 
beautiful as it regards every sense. The passion 
excited by beauty is in fact nearer to a species of 
a melancholy, than to jollity and mirth. I do not 
here mean to confine music to any one species of 
notes, or tones, neither is it an art in which I can 
say I have any great skill. My sole design in this 
remark is, to settle a consistent idea of beauty. 
The infinite variety of the afl^ections of the soul will 
suggest to a good head, and skilful ear, a variety 
of such sounds as are fitted to raise them. It can 
be no prejudice to this, to clear and distinguish 
some few particulars, that belong to the same 
class, and are consistent with each other, from 
the immense crowd of different, and sometimes 
contradictory, ideas, that rank vulgarly under the 
standard of beauty. And of these it is my intention 
to mark such only of the leading points as show 
the conformity of the sense of hearing, with all the 
other senses in the article of their pleasures. 
*I ne'er am merry, when I hear sweet music. 



Taste and Smell. 



THIS general agreement of the senses is yet more 
evident on minutely considering those of taste and 
smell. We metaphorically apply the idea of sweet- 
ness to sights and sounds ; but as the qualities ol 
bodies by which they are fitted to excite either 
pleasure or pain in these senses, are not so obvious 
as they are in the others, we shall refer an expla- 
nation of their analogy, which is a very close one, 
to that part, wherein we come to consider the 
common efficient cause of beauty, as it regards all 
the senses. I do not think anything better fitted 
to establish a clear and settled idea of visual 
beauty, than this way of examining the similar 
pleasures of other senses; for one part is some- 
times clear in one of the senses, that is more ob- 
scure in another ; and where there is a clear 
concurrence of all, we may with more certainty 
speak of any of them. By this means, they bear 
witness to each other ; nature is, as it were, scru- 
tinized ; and we report nothing of her but what we 
receive from her own information. 


The Sublime aud Beaatifiil compared. 



ON closing this general view of beauty, it natu- 
rally occurs, that we should compare it with the 
sublime ; and in this comparison there appears a 
remarkable contrast. For sublime objects are vast 
in their dimensions, beautiful ones comparatively 
small : beauty should be smooth and polished ; 
the great, rugged and negligent; beauty should 
shun the right line, yet deviate from it insensibly ; 
the great in many cases loves the right line ; and 
when it deviates, it often makes a strong deviation : 
beauty should not be obscure ; the great ought to 
be dark and gloomy ; beauty should be light and 
delicate ; the great ought to be solid, and even 
massive. They are indeed ideas of a very diffe- 
rent nature, one being founded on pain, the other 
on pleasure; and however they may vary after- 
wards from the direct nature of their causes, yet 
these causes keep up an eternal distinction be- 
tween them, a distinction never to be forgotten by 
any whose business it is to affect the passions. In 
the infinite variety of natural combinations, we must 


The Sublime and Beautiful compared. 

expect to find the qualities of things the most 
remote imaginable from each other, united in the 
same object. We must expect also to find com- 
binations of the same kind in the works of art. But 
when we consider the power of an object upon our 
passions, we must know that when anything is 
intended to affect the mind by the force of some 
predominant property, the affection produced is 
like to be the more uniform and perfect, if all the 
other properties or qualities of the object be of the 
same nature, and tending tothe same design, as the 
principal : 

If black and white blend, soften, and unite 
A thousand ways, are there no black and white ? 
If the qualities of the sublime and beautiful are 
sometimes found united, does this prove that they 
are the same ; does it prove that they are any way 
allied ; does it prove even that they are not opposite 
and contradictory ? Black and white may soften, 
may blend ; but they are not therefore the same. 
Nor, when they are so softened and blended with 
each other, or with different colours, is the power 
of black as black, or of white as white, so strong 
as when each stands uniform and distinguished. 










WHEN I say, I intend to inquire into the effici- 
ent cause of sublimity and beauty, I would not be 
understood to say, that I can come to the ultimate 
cause. I do not pretend that I shall ever be able 
to explam, why certain affections of the body pro- 
duce such a distinct emotion of mind, and no other ; 
or why the body is at all affected by the mind, or 
the mind by the body. A little thought will show 
this to be impossible. But I conceive, if we can 
discover what affections of the mind produce cer- 
tain emotions of the body ; and what distinct feel- 


Of the efficient cause of the Sublime and Beautiful. 

ings and qualities of the body shall produce certain 
determinate passions in the mind, and no others, 
I fancy a great deal will be done ; something not 
unuseful towards a distinct knowledge of our pas- 
sions, so far at least as we have them at present 
under our consideration. This is all, I believe, 
we can do. If we could advance a step farther, 
difficulties would still remain, as we should be still 
equally distant from the first cause. When New- 
ton first discovered the property of attraction, and 
settled its laws, he found it served very well to 
explain several of the most remarkable phenomena 
in nature ; but yet with reference to the general 
system of things, he could consider attraction but 
as an effect, whose cause at that time he did not 
attempt to trace. But when he afterv/ards began 
to account for it by a subtile elastic aether, this 
great man (if in so great a man it be not impious to 
discover anything like a blemish) seemed to have 
quitted his usual cautious manner of philosophis- 
ing; since, perhaps, allowing all that has been 
advanced on this subject to be sufficiently proved, 
I think it leaves us with as many difficulties as it 
found us. That great chain of causes, which links 
one to another, even to the throne of God himself. 



can never be unravelled by any industry of ours. 
When we go but one step beyond the immediately 
sensible qualities of things, we go out of our depth. 
All we do after is but a faint struggle, that shows 
we are in an element which does not belong to us. 
So that when I speak of cause, and efficient cause, 
I only mean certain affections of the mind, that 
cause certain changes in the body ; or certain pow- 
ers and properties in bodies, that work a change 
in the mind. As if I were to explain the motion 
of a body falling to the ground, I would say it was 
caused by gravity ; and I would endeavour to show 
after what manner this power operated, without 
attempting to show why it operated in this manner : 
or if I were to explain the effects of bodies striking 
one another by the common laws of percussion, I 
should not endeavour to explain how motion itself 
is communicated. 



IT is no small bar in the way of our inquiry into 
the cause of our passions, that the occasion of 
many of them are given, and that their governing 
motions are communicated, at a time when we have 



not capacity to reflect on them ; at a time of which 
all sort of memory is worn out of our minds. For 
besides such things as afl:'ect us in various manners, 
according to their natural powers, there are associa- 
tions made at that early season, which we find it 
very hard afterwards to distinguish from natural 
effects. Not to mention the unaccountable anti- 
pathies which we find in many persons, we all find 
it imposssibie to remember when a steep became 
more terrible than a plain ; or fire or water more 
terrible than a clod of earth ; though all these are 
very probably either conclusions from experience, 
or arising from the premonitions of others ; and 
some of them impressed, in all likelihood, pretty 
late. But as it must be allowed that many things 
affect us after a certain manner, not by any natural 
powers they have for that purpose, but by associa- 
tion ; so it would be absurd, on the other hand, to 
say that all things affect us by association only ; 
since some things must have been originally and 
naturally agreeable or disagreeable, from which the 
others derive their associated powers ; and it would 
be, I fancy, to little purpose to look for the cause 
of our passions in association, until we fail of it in 
the natural properties of things. 


Cause of Pain and Fear. 



I HAVE before observed*, that whatever is qua- 
lified to cause terror, is a foundation capable of the 
sublime ; to which I add, that not only these, but 
many things from which we cannot probably ap- 
prehend any danger, have a similar effect, because 
they operate in a similar manner. I observed too, 
that t^vhatever produces pleasure, positive and 
original pleasure, is fit to have beauty ingrafted on 
it. Therefore, to clear up the nature of these qua- 
lities, it may be necessary to explain the nature of 
pain and pleasure on which they depend. A man 
who suffers under violent bodily pain (I suppose 
the most violent, because the effect may be the more 
obvious) : I say a man in great pain, has his teeth 
set, his eye-brows are violently contracted, his 
forehead is wrinkled, his eyes are dragged inwards, 
and rolled with great vehemence, his hair stands 
on end, the voice is forced out in short shrieks and 
groans, and the whole fabric totters. Fear or ter- 
ror, which is an apprehension of pain or death, ex- 
* Part I. sect. 8. t Part I. sect. 10. 


Cause of Pain and Fear. 

hibits exactly the same effects, approaching- in vio- 
lence to those just mentioned, in proportion to the 
nearness of the cause, and the weakness of the 
subject. This is not only so in the human species ; 
but I have more than once observed in dogs, under 
an apprehension of punishment, that they have 
writhed their bodies, and yelped, and howled, as 
if they had actually felt the blows. From hence 
I conclude, that pain and fear act upon the same 
parts of the body, and in the same manner, though 
somewhat differing in degree ; that pain and fear 
consist in an unnatural tension of the nerves ; that 
this is sometimes accompanied with an unnatural 
strength, which sometimes suddenly changes into 
an extraordinary weakness ; that these effects often 
come on alternately, and are sometimes mixed with 
each other. This is the nature of all convulsive 
agitations, especially in weaker subjects, which are 
the most liable to the severest impressions of pain 
and fear. The only difference between pain and 
terror is, that things which cause pain operate on 
the mind, by the intervention of the body ; whereas 
things that cause terror, generally affect the bodily 
organs by the operation of the mind suggesting 
the danger ; but both agreeing, either primarily, or 


Cause of Pain and Fear. 

secondarily, in producing a tension, contraction, or 
violent emotion of the nerves*, they agree likewise 
in everything else. For it appears very clearly to 
me, from this, as well as from many other examples, 
that when the body is disposed by any means what- 
soever, to such emotions as it would acquire by 
the means of a certain passion ; it will of itself ex- 
cite something very like that passion in the mind. 



TO this purpose Mr. Spon, in his Recherches d* 
Antiquite, gives us a curious story of the celebrated 
physiognomist Campanella. This man, it seems, 
had not only made very accurate observations on 
human faces, but was very expert in mimicking such 
as were any way remarkable. When he had a mind 
to penetrate into the inclinations of those he had 

* I do not here enter into the question debated among 
physiologists, whether pain be the effect of a contraction, 
or a tension of the nerves. Either will serve my purpose ; 
for by tension, I mean no more than a violent pulling of the 
libres, which compose any muscle or membrane, in whatever 
way this is done. 


Cause of Pain and Fear. 

to deal with, he composed his face, his gesture, and 
his whole body, as nearly as he could into the ex- 
act similitude of the person he intended to examine, 
and then carefully observed what turn of mind he 
seemed to acquire by this change. So that (says 
my author) he was able to enter into the dispositions 
and thoughts of people as effectually as if he had 
been changed into the very men. I have often ob- 
served, that on mimicking the looks and gestures 
of angry, or placid, or frighted, or daring men, I 
have involuntarily found my mind turned to that 
passion, whose appearance I endeavoured to imi- 
tate ; nay, I am convinced it is hard to avoid it, 
though one strove to separate the passion from its 
correspondent gestures. Our minds and bodies are 
so closely and intimately connected, that one is 
incapable of pain or pleasure without the other. 
Campanella, of whom we have been speaking, 
could so abstract his attention from any sufferings 
of his body, that he was able to endure the rack 
itself without much pain ; and in lesser pains every- 
body must have observed, that when we can em- 
ploy our attention on anything else, the pain has 
been for a time suspended : on the other hand, if 
by any means the body is indisposed to perform 


How the Sublime is produced. 

such gestures, or to be stimulated into such emotions 
as any passion usually produces in it, that passion 
itself never can arise, though its cause should be 
never so strongly in action; though it should be 
merely mental, and immediately affecting none of 
the senses. As an opiate, or spirituous liquors, 
shall suspend the operation of grief, or fear, or an- 
ger, in spite of all our efforts to the contrary ; and 
this by inducing in the body a disposition contrary 
to that which it receives from these passions. 



HAVING considered terror as producing an un- 
natural tension and certain violent emotions of the 
nerves ; it easily follows, from what we have just 
said, that whatever is fitted to produce such a ten- 
sion must be productive of a passion similar to ter- 
ror,* and consequently must be a source of the 
sublime, though it should have no idea of danger 
connected with it. So that little remains towards 
showing the cause of the sublime, but to show that 
the instances we have given of it in the second part 
relate to such things, as are fitted by nature to 
* Part II. sect 2. 


How Pain can be a cause of delight. 

produce this sort of tension, either by the primary 
operation of the mind or the body. With regard 
to such things as affect by the associated idea of 
danger, there can be no doubt but that they pro- 
duce terror, and act by some modification of that 
passion ; and that terror, when sufficiently violent, 
raises the emotions of the body just mentioned, can 
as little be doubted. But if the sublime is built 
on terror, or some passion like it, which has pain 
for its object, it is previously proper to inquire 
how any species of delight can be derived from a 
cause so apparently contrary to it. I say, delight, 
because, as I have often remarked, it is very evi- 
dently different in its cause, and in its own nature, 
from actual and positive pleasure. 



PROVIDENCE has so ordered it, that a state 
of rest and inaction, however it may flatter our in- 
dolence, should be productive of many inconveni- 
ences ; that it should generate such disorders, as 
may force us to have recourse to some labour, as a 
thing absolutely requisite to make us pass our lives 


How Pain can be a cause of delight. 

with tolerable satisfaction ; for the nature of rest 
is to suffer all the parts of our bodies to fall into a 
relaxation, that not only disables the members 
from performing their functions, but takes away the 
vigorous tone of fibre which is requisite for carry- 
ing on the natural and necessary secretions. At 
the same time, that in this languid inactive state, 
the nerves are more liable to the most horrid con- 
vulsions, than when they are sufficiently braced 
and strengthened. Melancholy, dejection, despair, 
and often self-murder, is the consequence of the 
gloomy view we take of things in this relaxed stkte 
of body. The best remedy for all these evils is 
exercise or labour ; and labour is a surmounting of 
difficulties^ an exertion of the contracting power of 
the muscles ; and as such resembles pain, which 
consists in tension or contraction, in everything 
but degree. Labour is not only requisite to pre- 
serve the coarser organs in a state fit for their 
functions ; but it is equally necessary to these 
finer and more delicate organs, on which, and by 
which, the imagination, and perhaps the other men- 
tal powers, act. Since it is probable, that not only 
the inferior parts of the soul, as the passions are 
called, but the understanding itself, makes use of 


Exercise necessary for the finer Organs. 

some fine corporeal instruments in its operation ; 
though what they are, and where they are, may be 
somewhat hard to settle ; but that it does make use 
of such, appears from hence ; that a long exercise 
of the mental powers induces a remarkable lassitude 
of the whole body ; and on the other hand, that 
great bodily labour, or pain, weakens and some- 
times actually destroys, the mental faculties. 
Now, as a due exercise is essential to the coarse 
muscular parts of the constitution, and that without 
this rousing they would become languid and dis- 
eased, the very same rule holds with regard to 
those finer parts we have mentioned ; to have them 
in proper order, they must be shaken and worked 
to a proper degree. 



AS common labour, which is a mode of pain, is the. 
exercise of the grosser, a mode of terror is the 
exercise of the finer parts of the system ; and if a 
certain mode of pain be of such a nature as to act 
upon the eye or the ear, as they are the most deli- 
cate organs, the affection approaches more nearly 


Why things not dangerous produce a passion like Terror. 

to that which has a mental cause, ^n all these 
cases, if the pain and terror are so modified as not 
to be actually noxious ; if the pain is not carried 
to violence, and the terror is not conversant about 
the present destruction of the person, as these 
emotions clear the parts, whether fine or gross, 
of a dangerous and troublesome incumbrance, they 
are capable of producing delight; not pleasure, but 
a sort of delightful horror, a sort of tranquillity 
tinged with terror; which, as it belongs to self-pre- 
servation, is one of the strongest of all the pas- 
sions. Its object is the sublime*. Its highest de- 
gree I call astonishment; the subordinate degrees 
are awe, reverence, and respect, which, by the very 
etymology of the words, show from what source 
they are derived, and how they stand distinguished 
from positive pleasure. 



t A MODE of terror or pain is always the cause 

of the sublime. For terror, or associated danger, 

* Part II. sect.. 2. t Part I. sect. 7 Part II. sect 2. 


Why visual objects of great dimensions are Sublinae. 

the foregomg explication is, I believe, suflScient. 
It will require something more trouble to show, 
that such examples as I have given of the sublime 
in the second part, are capable of producing a 
mode of pain, and of being thus allied to terror, 
and to be accounted for on the same principles. 
And first of such objects as are great in their di- 
mensions. I speak of visual objects. 



VISION is performed by having a picture formed 
by the rays of light which are reflected from the 
object painted in one piece, instantaneously, on the 
retina, or last nervous part of the eye. Or, accord- 
ing to others, there is but one point of any object 
painted on the eye in such a manner as to be per- 
ceived at once; but by moving the eye, we gather 
up with great celerity, the several parts of the ob- 
ject, so as to form one uniform piece. If the for- 
mer opinion be allowed, it will be considered, 
* that though all the light reflected from a large 
* Part II. sect. 7. 


Why visual objects of great dimensions are Sublime. 

body should strike the eye in one instant ; yet we 
must suppose that the body itself is formed of a 
vast number of distinct points, every one of which, 
or the ray from every one, makes an impression on 
the retina. So that, though the image of one point 
should cause but a small tension of this membrane, 
another, and another, and another stroke, must in 
their progress cause a very great one, until it ar- 
rives at last to the highest degree ; and the whole 
capacity of the eye, vibrating in all its parts, must 
approach near to the nature of what causes pain, 
and consequently must produce an idea of the sub- 
lime. Again, if we take it, that one point only of 
an object is distinguishable at once ; the matter will 
amount nearly to the same thing, or rather it will 
make the origin of the sublime from greatness of di- 
mension yet clearer. For if but one point is obser- 
ved at once, the eye must traverse the vast space 
of such bodies with great quickness, and conse- 
quently the line nerves and muscles destined to the 
motion of that part must be very much strained ; 
and their great sensibility must make them highly 
affected by this straining. Besides, it signifies just 
nothing to the effect produced, whether a body has 
its parts connected, and makes its impression at 


Unity, Why requisite to Vastness. 

once ; or, making but one impression of a point at 
a time, it causes a succession of the same or others 
so quickly as to make them seem united ; as is 
evident from the common effect of whirling about 
a lighted torch or piece of wood ; which, if done 
with celerity, seems a circle of fire. 



IT may be objected to this theory, that the eye 
generally receives an equal number of rays at all 
times, and that therefore a great object cannot 
affect it by the number of rays, more than that 
variety of objects which the eye must always dis- 
cern whilst it remains open. But to this I answer, 
that admitting an equal number of rays, or an equal 
quantity of luminous particles, to strike the eye at 
all times, yet if these rays frequently vary their 
nature, now to blue, now to red, and so on, or their 
manner of termination, as to a number of petty 
squares, triangles, or the like, at every change» 
whether of colour or shape, the organ has a sort of 
relaxation or rest ; but this relaxation and labour 
so often interrupted, is by no means productive of 


Unity, why requisite to Vastness. 

ease ; neither has it the eflfect of vigorous and uni- 
form labour. Whoever has remarked the different 
effects of some strong exercise, and some Httle 
piddling action, will understand why a teasing 
fretful employment, which at once wearies and 
weakens the body, should have nothing great ; 
these sorts of impulses, which are rather teasing than 
painful, by continually and suddenly altering their 
tenor and direction, prevent that full tension, that 
species of uniform labour, which is allied to strong 
pain, and causes the sublime. The sum total of 
things of various kinds, though it should equal the 
number of the uniform parts composing some one 
entire object, is not equal in its eflfect upon the 
organs of our bodies. Besides the one already 
assigned, there is another very strong reason for 
the diflference. The mind in reality hardly ever 
can attend diligently to more than one thing at a 
time ; if this thing be little, the effect is little, and 
a number of other little objects cannot engage the 
attention ; the mind is bounded by the bounds of 
the object ; and what is not attended to, and what 
does not exist, are much the same in the effect ; 
but the eye or the mind (for in this case there is no 
difference) in great uniform objects does not readily 


The artificial Infinite. 

arrive at their bounds; it has not rest whilst it 
contemplates them ; the image is much the same 
everywhere. So that everything great by its quan- 
tity must necessarily be one, simple and entire. 



WE have observed, that a species of greatness 
arises from the artificial infinite ; and that this infi- 
nite consists in an uniform succession of great 
parts : we observed too, that the same uniform 
succession had a like power in sounds. But be- 
cause the effects of many things are clearer in one 
of the senses than in another, and that all the senses 
bear an analogy to, and illustrate, one another, I 
shall begin with this power in sounds, as the cause 
of the sublimity from succession is rather more 
obvious in the sense of hearing. And I shall here 
once for all observe, that an investigation of the 
natural and mechanical causes of our passions, 
besides the curiosity of the subject, gives, if they 
are discovered, a double strength and lustre to any 
rules we deliver on such matters. When the ear 
receives any simple sound, it is struck by a single 


The artificial Infinite. 

pulse of the air, which makes the ear-drum and the 
other membranous parts vibrate according to the 
nature and species of the stroke. If the stroke be 
strong, the organ of hearing suffers a considerable 
degree of tension. If the stroke be repeated pretty 
soon after, the repetition causes an expectation of 
another stroke. And it must be observed, that 
expectation itself causes a tension. This is appa- 
rent in many animals, who, when they prepare for 
hearing any sound, rouse themselves, and prick up 
their ears : so that here the effect of the sounds is 
considerably augmented by a new auxiliary, the 
expectation. But though after a number of strokes, 
we expect still more, not being able to ascertain 
the exact time of their arrival ; when they arrive, 
they produce a sort of surprise, which increases 
this tension yet further. For I have observed, 
that when at any time I have waited very ear- 
nestly for some sound that returned at intervals (as 
the successive firing of cannon), though I fully 
expected the return of the sound, when it came it 
always made me start a little : the ear-drum suf- 
fered a convulsion, and the whole body consented 
with it. The tension of the part thus increasing at 
every blow, by the united forces of the stroke itself, 


The Vibration must be similar. 

the expectation, and the surprise, it is worked up 
to such a pitch as to be capable of the sublime; it 
is brought just to the verge of pain. Even when 
the cause has ceased, the organs of hearing being 
often successively struck in a similar manner, con- 
tinue to vibrate in that manner for some time 
longer ; this is an additional help to the greatness 
of the effect. 



BUT if the vibration be not similar at every im- 
pression, it can never be carried beyond the num- 
ber of actual impressions ; for, move any body as 
a pendulum, in one way, and it will continue to 
oscillate in an arch of the same circle, until the 
known causes make it rest ; but if after first putting 
it in motion in one direction, you push it into 
another, it can never reassume the first direction ; 
because it can never move itself, and consequently 
it can have but the effect of that last motion ; 
whereas, if in the same direction you act upon it 
several times, it will describe a greater arch, and 
move a longer time. 


The eflfects of succession in Visual objects, explained. 



IF we can comprehend clearly hov^ things operate 
upon one of our senses, there can be very little 
difficulty in conceiving in what manner they aflfect 
the rest. To say a great deal therefore upon the 
corresponding affections of every sense, would 
tend rather to fatigue us by an useless repetition, 
than to throw any new light upon the subject, by 
that ample and diffuse manner of treating it; but 
as in this discourse we chiefly attach ourselves to 
the sublime, as it affects the eye, we shall consider 
particularly why a successive disposition of uni- 
form parts in the same right line should be sublime*, 
and upon what principle this disposition is enabled 
, to make a comparatively small quantity of matter 
produce a grander eft'ect, than a much larger 
quantity disposed in another manner. To avoid 
the perplexity of general notions ; let us set before 
our eyes a colonnade of uniform pillars planted in 
a right line ; let us take our stand in such a manner, 
* Part II. sect, x. 


The effects of succession in Visual objects, explained. 

that the eye may shoot along this colonnade, for 
it has its best effect in this view. In our present 
situation it is plain, that the rays from the first 
round pillar will cause in the eye a vibration of 
that species ; an image of the pillar itself. The 
pillar immediately succeeding increases it ; that 
which follows renews and enforces the impression ; 
each in its order, as it succeeds, repeats impulse 
after impulse, and stroke after stroke, until the eye, 
long exercised in one particular way, cannot lose 
that object immediately ; and being violently roused 
by this continued agitation, it presents the mind 
with a grand or sublime conception. But instead 
of viewing a rank of uniform pillars, let us suppose, 
that they succeed each other, a round and a square 
one alternately. In this case, the vibration caused 
by the first round pillar perishes as soon as it is 
formed ; and one of quite another sort (the square) 
directly occupies its place; which, however, it 
resigns as quickly to the round one : and thus the 
eye proceeds, alternately, taking up one image, 
and laying down another, as long as the building 
continues. From whence it is obvious, that at the 
last pillar, the impression is as far from continuing 
as it was at the very first ; because, in fact, the 


The effects of succession in Visual objects, explained. 

sensory can receive no distinct impression but 
iVom the last ; and it can never of itself resume a 
dissimilar impression ; besides, every variation of 
the object is a rest and relaxation to the organs of 
sight ; and these reliefs prevent that powerful emo- 
tion so necessary to produce the sublime. To 
produce, therefore, a perfect grandeur in such 
things as we have been mentioning, there should 
be a perfect simplicity, an absolute uniformity in 
disposition, shape, and colouring. Upon this prin- 
ciple of succession and uniformity, it may be asked, 
why a long bare wall should not be a more sublime 
object than a colonnade ; since the succession is 
no way interrupted ; since the eye meets no check ; 
since nothing more uniform can be conceived ? A 
long bare wall is certainly not so grand an object 
as a colonnade of the same length and height. It 
is not altogether difficult to account for this diffe- 
rence. When we look at a naked wall, from the 
evenness of the object, the eye runs along its whole 
space, and arrives quickly at its termination ; the 
eye meets nothing which may interrupt its pro- 
gress ; but then it meets nothing which may detain 
it a proper time to produce a very great and lasting- 
effect. The view of a bare wall if it be of a great 


Locke's opinion concerning Darkness, considered. 

height and length, is undoubtedly grand ; but this 
is only one idea, and not a repetition of similar 
ideas ; it is therefore great, not so much upon the 
principle of infinity, as upon that of vastness. But 
we are not so powerfully affected with any one 
impulse, unless it be one of a prodigious force in- 
deed, as we are with a succession of similar impul- 
ses ; because the nerves of the sensory do not (if 
1 may use the expression) acquire a habit of repeat- 
mg the same feeling in such a manner as to conti- 
nue it longer than its cause is in action : besides, all 
the effects which I have attributed to expectation 
and surprise in Sect. II. can have no place in a 
bare wall. 



IT is Mr. Locke's opinion, that darkness is not 
naturally an idea of terror ; and that though an ex- 
cessive light is painful to the sense, that the great- 
est excess of darkness is no ways troublesome. 
He observes indeed in another place, that a nurse 
or an old woman having once associated the ideas* 


Lockers opinion concermug Darkness, considered. 

of ghosts and goblins with that of darkness, night 
ever after becomes painful and horrible to the 
imagination. The authority of this great man is 
doubtless as great as that of any man can be, and 
it seems to stand in the way of our general prin- 
ciple*. We have considered darkness as a cause 
of the sublime ; and we have all along considered 
the sublime as depending on some modification of 
pain or terror: so that, if darkness be no way 
painful or terrible to any, who have not had their 
minds early tainted with superstitions, it can be no 
source of the sublime to them. But, with all de- 
ference to such an authority, it seems to me, that 
an association of a more general nature, an asso- 
ciation which takes in all mankind, may make 
darkness terrible; for, in utter darkness, it is im- 
possible to know in what degree of safety we stand ; 
we are ignorant of the objects that surround us ; 
we may every moment strike against some dan- 
gerous obstruction ; we may fall down a precipice 
the first step we take ; and if an enemy ap- 
proach, we know not in what quarter to defend 
ourselves ; in such a case strength is no sure 
* Part II. sect. iii. 


Locke's opinion concerning Darkness, considered. 

protection ; wisdom can only act by guess ; the 
boldest are staggered, and he who would pray for 
nothing else towards his defence is forced to pray 
for light. 

Zcy TTars^, aKKcx. au ^uaai vtt rje^og viag Axficim' 

El/ ^£ (pcc£i Hcci oKza-aov. — 

As to the association of ghosts and goblins; 
surely it is more natural to think, that darkness, 
being originally an idea of terror, was chosen as a 
fit scene for such terrible representations, than that 
such representations have made darkness terrible. 
The mind of man very easily slides into an error 
of the former sort ; but it is very hard to imagine, 
that the effect of an idea so universally terrible in 
all times, and in all countries, as darkness, could 
possibly have been owing to a set of idle stories, 
or to any cause of a nature so trivial, and of an 
operation so precarious. 


Darkoess terrible in its own nature. 



PERHAPS it may appear on inquiry, that black- 
ness and darkness are in some degree painful by 
their natural operation, independent of any asso- 
ciations whatsoever. I must observe, that the ideas 
of darkness and blackness are much the same ; and 
they differ only in this, that blackness is a more 
confined idea. Mr. Cheselden has given us a very 
curious story of a boy, who had been born blind, 
and continued so until he was thirteen or fourteen 
years old ; he was then couched for a cataract, by 
which operation he received his sight. Among 
many remarkable particulars that attended his first 
perceptions and judgments on visual objects, Che- 
selden tells us, that the first time the boy saw a 
black object, it gave him great uneasiness ; and 
that some time after, upon accidentally seeing a 
negro woman, he was struck with great horror at 
the sight. The horror, in this case, can scarcely 
be supposed to arise from any association. The 
boy appears by the account to have been particu- 
larly observing and sensible for one of his age ; and 


Why Daikne&s is terrible. 

therefore it is probable, if the great uneasiness he 
felt at the first sight of black had arisen from its 
connexion with any other disagreeable ideas, he 
would have observed and mentioned it. For an idea, 
disagreeable only by association, has the cause of 
its ill effect on the passions evident enough at the 
first impression ; in ordinary cases, it is indeed 
frequently lost; but this is because the original 
association was made very early, and the conse- 
quent impression repeated often. In our instance, 
there was no time for such a habit ; and there is no 
reason to think that the ill effects of black on his 
imagination were more owing to its connexion with 
any disagreeable ideas, than that the good effects 
of more cheerful colours were derived from their 
connexion with pleasing ones. They had both pro- 
bably their effects from their natural operation. 



IT may be worth while to examine how darkness 
can operate in such a manner as to cause paki. 
It is observable, that still as we recede from the 
light, nature has so contrived it, that the pupil is 


Wliy Darkness is terrible. 

enlarged by the retiring of the iris, in proportion to 
our recess. Now, instead of declining from it but 
a little, suppose that we withdraw entirely from 
the light ; it is reasonable to think, that the con- 
traction of the radial fibres of the iris is propor- 
tionably greater ; and that this part may by great 
darkness come to be so contracted, as to strain the 
nerves that compose it beyond their natural tone ; 
and by this means to produce a painful sensation. 
Such a tension it seems there certainly is, whilst 
we are involved in darkness ; for in such a state, 
whilst the eye remains open, there is a continual 
nisus to receive light; this is manifest from the 
flashes and luminous appearances which often 
seem in these circumstances to play before it; and 
which can be nothing but the effect of spasms, 
produced by its own eflForts in pursuit of its 
object ; several other strong impulses will produce 
the idea of light in the eye besides the substance 
of light itself, as we experience on many occa- 
sions. Some who allow darkness to be a cause of 
the sublime, would infer, from the dilatation of the 
pupil, that a relaxation may be productive of the 
sublime, as well as a convulsion : but they do not 
I believe consider that although the circular ring 


Why Darkness is terrible. 

of the iris be in some sense a sphincter, which may 
possibly be dilated by a simple relaxation, yet in 
one respect it differs from most of the other sphinc- 
ters of the body, that it is furnished with antago- 
nist muscles, which are the radial fibres of the iris : 
no sooner does the circular muscle begin to relax, 
than these fibres, wanting their counterpoise, are 
forcibly drawn back, and open the pupil to a con- 
siderable wideness. But though we were not 
apprized of this, I believe any one will find, if 
he opens his eyes and makes an effort to see in a 
dark place, that a very perceivable pain ensues. 
And I have heard some ladies remark, that after 
having worked a long time upon a ground of black, 
their eyes were so pained and weakened, they could 
hardly see. It may perhaps be objected to this 
theory of the mechanical effect of darkness, that the 
ill effects of darkness or blackness seems rather 
mental than corporeal ; and I own it is true, that 
they do so ; and so do all those that depend on the 
affections of the finer parts of our system. The ill 
effects of bad weather appear often no otherwise, 
than in a melancholy and dejection of spirits ; 
though, without doubt, in this case, the bodily or- 
gans suffer first, and the mind, through these organs. 



The effects of Blackness. 



BLACKNESS is but a partial darkness; and 
therefore it derives some of its powers from being 
mixed and surrounded with coloured bodies. In its 
own nature, it cannot be considered as a colour. 
Black bodies, reflecting none, or but a few rays, 
with regard to sight, are but as so many vacant 
spaces dispersed among the objects we view. 
When the eye lights on one of these vacuities, af- 
ter having been kept in some degree of tension by 
the play of the adjacent colours upon it, it suddenly 
falls into a relaxation ; out of which it as suddenly 
recovers by a convulsive spring. To illustrate this : 
let us consider, that when we intend to sit on a chair, 
and find it much lower than we expected, the shock 
is very violent ; much more violent than could be 
thought from so slight a fall as the difference be- 
tween one chair and another can possibly make. 
If, after descending a flight of stairs, we attempt 
inadvertently to take another step in the manner of 
the former ones, the shock is extremely rude and 
disagreeable ; and by no art can we cause such a 


The effects of Blackness. 

shock by the same means when we expect and 
prepare for it. When I say that this is owing to 
having the change made contrary to expectation ; 
J do not mean solely, when the mind expects. I 
mean likewise, that when any organ of sense is for 
sometime affected in some one manner, if it be 
suddenly affected otherwise, there ensues a con- 
vulsive motion ; such a convulsion as is caused 
when anything happens against the expectance of 
the mind. And though it may appear strange that 
such a change as produces a relaxation, should im- 
mediately produce a sudden convulsion ; it is yet 
most certainly so, and so in all the senses. Every 
one knows that sleep is a relaxation ; and that si- 
lence, where nothing keeps the organs of hearing 
in action, is in general fittest to bring on this re- 
laxation : yet when a sort of murmuring sounds dis- 
pose a man to sleep, let these sounds cease sud- 
denly, and the person immediately awakes ; that 
is, the parts are braced up suddenly, and he awakes. 
This I have often experienced myself, and I have 
heard the same from observing persons. In like 
manner, if a person in broad daylight were falling 
asleep, to introduce a sudden darkness, would pre- 
vent his sleep for that time, though silence and 


The effects of Blackness. 

darkness in themselves, and not suddenly introdu- 
ced, are very favourable to it. This I knew only 
by conjecture on the analogy of the senses when 
I first digested these observations ; but I have 
since experienced it. And I have often experi- 
enced, and so have a thousand others, that on the 
first inclining towards sleep, we have been suddenly 
awakened with a most violent start ; and that this 
start was generally preceded by a sort of dream of 
our falling down a precipice : whence does this 
strange motion arise, but from the too sudden re- 
laxation of the body, which by some mechanism in 
nature, restores itself by as quick and vigorous an 
exertion of the contracting power of the muscles? 
The dream itself is caused by this relaxation ; 
and it is of too uniform a nature to be attributed 
to any other cause. The parts relax too suddenly, 
which is in the nature of falling ; and this accident 
of the body induces this image in the mind. When 
we are in a confirmed state of health and vigour, 
as all changes are then less sudden, and less on the 
extreme, we can seldom complain of this disagreea- 
ble sensation. 


The effects of Blackness moderated. 



THOUGH the effects of black be painful origi- 
nally, we must not think they always continue so. 
Custom reconciles us to everything. After we have 
been used to the sight of black objects, the terror 
abates, and the smoothness and glossiness, or some 
agreeable accident of bodies so coloured, softens 
in some measure the horror and sternness of their 
original nature ; yet the nature of the original im- 
pression still continues. Black will always have 
something melancholy in it, because the sensory 
will always find the change to it from other colours 
too violent ; or if it occupy the whole compass of 
the sight, it will then be darkness ; and what was 
said of darkness will be applicable here. I do not 
purpose to go into all that might be said to illus- 
trate this theory of the effects of light and darkness ; 
neither will I examine all the different effects pro- 
duced by the various modifications and mixtures 
of these two causes. If the foregoing observations 
have any foundation in nature, I conceive them 
very sufficient to account for all the phenomena 


The physical cause of Love. 

that can arise from all the combinations of black 
with other colours. To enter into every particular, 
or to answer every objection, would be an endless 
labour. We have only followed the most leading 
roads ; and we shall observe the same conduct in 
our inquiry into the cause of beauty. 



WHEN we have before us such objects as excite 
love and complacency, the body is affected, so 
far as I could observe, much in the following man- 
ner ; the head reclines something on one side ; the 
eye-lids are more closed than usual, and the eyes 
roll gently with an inclination to the object ; the 
mouth is a little opened, and the breath drawn 
slowly, with now and then a low sigh ; the whole 
body is composed, and the hands fall idly to the 
sides. All this is accompanied with an inward 
sense of melting and languor. These appearances 
are always proportioned to the degree of beauty 
in the object, and of sensibility in the observer. 
And this gradation from the highest pitch of beauty 
and sensibility, even to the lowest of mediocrity 


The physical cause of Love. 

and indifference, and their correspondent effects, 
ought to be kept in view, else this description will 
seem exaggerated, which it certainly is not. But 
from this description it is almost impossible not to 
conclude, that beauty acts by relaxing the solids 
of the whole system. There are all the appear- 
ances of such a relaxation ; and a relaxation some- 
what below the natural tone seems to me to be the 
cause of all positive pleasure. Who is a stranger 
to that manner of expression so commmon in all 
times and in all countries, of being softened, relaxed, 
enervated, dissolved, melted away by pleasure ? 
The universal voice of mankind, faithful to their 
feelings, concurs in affirming this uniform «>nd ge- 
neral effect ; and although some odd and particular 
instance may perhaps be found, wherein there ap- 
pears a considerable degree of positive pleasure, 
without all the characters of relaxation, we must 
not therefore reject the conclusion we had drawn 
from a concurrence of many experiments ; but we 
must still retain it, subjoining the exceptions which 
may occur according to the judicious rule laid 
down by Sir Isaac Newton in the third book of his 
Optics. Onr posiliou will, 1 conceive, appear 
confirmed beyond any reasonable <lonbt, if mc can 


Why SmoothHess is Beautiful. 

show that such things as we have already observed 
to be the genuine constituents of beauty, have each 
of them, separately taken, a natural tendency to 
relax the fibres. And if it must be allowed us, 
that the appearance of the human body, when all 
these constituents are united together before the sen- 
sory, further favours this opinion, we may venture, 
I believe, to conclude, that the passion called love 
is produced by this relaxation. By the same me- 
thod of reasoning which we have used in the in- 
quiry into tlie causes of the sublime, we may like- 
wise conclude, that, as a beautiful object presented 
to the sense, by causing a relaxation in the body, 
produces the passion of love in the mind ; so if by 
any means the passion should first have its origin 
in the mind, a relaxation of the outward organs will 
as certainly ensue in a degree proportioned to the 



IT is to explain the true cause or visual beauty, 
that I call in the assistance of the other sense.-;. 
If it appears tiial smoothness is a principal cause of 


Why Smoothness is Beautiful. 

pleasure to the touch, taste, smell, and hearing, it 
will be easily admitted a constituent of visual 
beauty ; especially as we have before shown, that 
this quality is found almost without exception in 
all bodies that are by general consent held beauti- 
ful. There can be no doubt that bodies which are 
rough and angular, rouse and vellicate the organs 
of feeling, causing a sense of pain, which consists 
in the violent tension or contraction of the muscular 
fibres. On the contrary, the application of smooth 
bodies relaxes ; gentle stroking with a smooth 
hand allays violent pains and cramps, and relaxes 
the suffering parts from their unnatural tension ; 
and it has therefore very often no mean effect in 
removing swellings and obstructions. The sense 
of feeling is highly gratified with smooth bodies. 
A bed smoothly laid, and soft, that is, where the 
resistance is everyway inconsiderable, is a great 
luxury, disposing to an universal relaxation, and 
inducing beyond anything else, that species of it 
called sleep. 

AND BliAUTlFUL. 223 

Sweetne£6, its nature. 



NOR is it only in the touch, that smooth bodies 
cause positive pleasure by relaxation. In the smell 
and taste, we find all things agreeable to them, and 
which are commonly called sweet, to be of a 
smooth nature, and that they all evidently tend to 
relax their respective sensories. Let us tirst con- 
sider the taste. Since it is most easy to inquire 
into the property of liquids, and since all things 
seem to want a fluid vehicle to make them tasted 
at all, I intend rather to consider the liquid than 
the solid parts of our food. The vehicles of all 
tastes are icatei' and oil. And what determines the 
taste is some salt, which affects variously according 
to its nature, or its manner of being combined with 
other things. Water and oil, simply considered 
are capable of giving some pleasure to the taste. 
Water, when simple, is insipid, inodorous, colour- 
less and smooth ; it is found, when not cold, to be a 
great resolver of spasms, and lubricator of the fi- 
bres : this power it probably owes to its smoothness. 
For, as fluidity depends, according to the most 


Sweetness, its nature. 

general opinion, on the roundness, smoothness, 
and weak cohesion of the component parts of any- 
body ; and as water acts merely as a simple fluid ; 
it follows, that the cause of its fluidity is likewise 
the cause of its relaxing quality; namely, the 
smoothness and slippery texture of its parts. The 
other fluid vehicle of tastes is oil. This too, when 
simple, is insipid, inodorous, colourless, and 
smooth to the touch and taste. It is smoother than 
water, and in many cases yet more relaxing. Oil 
is in some degree pleasant to the eye, the touch, 
and the taste, insipid as it is. Water is not so 
grateful ; which I do not know on what principle 
to account for, other than that water is not so soft 
and smooth. Suppose that to this oil or water 
were added a certain quantity of a specific salt, 
which had a power of putting the nervous papillae 
of the tongue into a gentle vibratory motion ; as 
suppose sugar dissolved in it. The smoothness 
of the oil, and the vibratory power of the salt, 
cause the sense v/e call sweetness. In all sweet 
bodies, sugar, or a substance very little diff'erent 
from sugar, is constantly found ; every species of 
salt, examined by the microscope, has its own dis- 
tinct, regular, invariable form. That of nitre is a 


Sweetness, its nature. 

pointed oblong ; that of sea-salt an exact cube ; that 
of sugar a perfect globe. If you have tried how 
smooth globular bodies, as the marbles with which 
boys amuse themselves, have aft'ected the touch 
when they are rolled backward and forward and over 
one another; you will easily conceive how sweetness 
which consists in a salt of such nature, affects the 
taste : for a single globe, though somewhat plea- 
sant to the feeling, yet, by the regularity of its form, 
and the somewhat too sudden deviation of its parts 
from a right line, it is nothing near so pleasant to 
the touch as several globes, where the hand gently 
rises to one and falls to another ; and this pleasure 
is greatly increased if the globes are in motion, and 
sliding over one another ; for this soft variety pre- 
vents that weariness, which the uniform disposition 
of the several globes would otherwise produce. 
Thus, in sweet liquors, the parts of the fluid vehi- 
cle, though most probably round, are yet so minute, 
as to conceal the figure of their component parts 
from the nicest inquisition of the microscope ; and 
consequently being so excessively minute, they 
have a sort of flat simplicity to the taste^ resem- 
bling the effects of plain smooth bodies to the touch ; 
for if a body be composed of round parts exces- 


Sweetness relaxing. 

sively small, and packed pretty closely together, 
the surface will be both to the sight and touch as 
if it were nearly plain and smooth. It is clear from 
their unveiling their figure to the microscope, that 
the particles of sugar are considerably larger than 
those of water or oil, and consequently, that their 
eftects from their roundness will be more distinct 
and palpable to the nervous papillse of that nice or- 
gan, the tongue : they will induce that sense called 
sweetness, which in a weak manner we discover in 
oil, and in a yet weaker in water : for, insipid as 
they are, water and oil are in some degree sweet ; 
and it may be observed, that insipid things of all 
kinds approach more nearly to the nature of sweet- 
ness than to that of any other taste. 



IN the other senses we have remarked, that smooth 
things are relaxing. Now it ought to appear that 
sweet things which are the smooth of taste, are 
relaxing too. It is remarkable, that in some lan- 
guages soft and sweet have but one name. Doux 
in French signifies soft as well as sweet. The 


Sweetness relaxing. 

Latia Dulcis, and the Italian Dolce, have in many 
cases the same double signification. That sweet 
things are generally relaxing, is evident ; because 
all such, especially those which are most oily, taken 
frequently, or in a large quantity, very much en- 
feeble the tone of the stomach. Sweet smells 
which bear a great affinity to sweet tastes, relax 
very remarkably. The smell of flowers disposes 
people to drowsiness ; and this relaxing eftect is 
further apparent from the prejudice which people 
of weak nerves receive from their use. It were 
worth while to examine, whether tastes of this kind, 
eweet ones, tastes that are caused by smooth oils 
and a relaxing salt, are not the originally pleasant 
tastes. For many, which use has rendered such, 
were not at all agreeable at first. The way to ex- 
amine this is, to try what nature has originally pro- 
vided for us, which she has undoubtedly made origi- 
nally pleasant ; and to analyse this provision. Milk 
is the first support of our childhood. The component 
parts of this are water, oil, and a sort of a very 
sweet salt, called the sugar of milk. All these 
when blended, have a great smoothness to the taste, 
and a relaxing quality to the skin. The next thing 
children covet is fruit, and of fruits those priuci- 


Variation, why Beantiful. 

pally which are sweet ; and every one knows that 
the sweetness of fruit is caused by a subtile oil, 
and such a salt as that mentioned in the last sec- 
tion. Afterwards, custom, habit, the desire of no- 
velty, and a thousand other causes, confound, adul- 
terate, and change our palates, so that we can no 
longer reason with any satisfaction about them. 
Before we quit this article, we must observe, that 
as smooth things are, as such, agreeable to the 
taste, and are found of a relaxing quality; so, on 
the other hand, things which are found by expe- 
rience to be of a strengthening quality, and fit to 
brace the fibres, are almost universally rough and 
pungent to the taste, and in many cases rough even 
to the touch. We often apply the quality of sweet- 
ness, metaphorically, to visual objects. For the 
better carrying on this remarkable analogy of the 
senses, we may here call sweetness the beautiful of 
the taste. 



ANOTHER principal property of beautiful ob- 
jects is, that the line of their parts is continually 


Variation, wby Beautifnl. 

varying its direction ; but it varies it by a very in- 
sensible deviation ; it never varies it so quickly as 
to surprise, or by the sharpness of its angle to 
cause any twitching or convulsion of the optic 
nerve. Nothing long continued in the same man- 
ner, nothing very suddenly varied, can be beautiful ; 
because both are opposite to that agreeable relax- 
ation which is the characteristic eft'ect of beauty. 
It is thus in all the senses. A motion in a right 
line, is that manner of moving next to a very gen- 
tle descent, in which we meet the least resistance ; 
yet it is not that manner of moving, which, next to 
a descent, wearies us the least. Rest certainly 
tends to relax : yet there is a species of motion 
which relaxes more than rest ; a gentle oscillatory 
motion, a rising and falling. Rocking sets children- 
to sleep better than absolute rest ; there is indeed 
scarce anything at that age, which gives more 
pleasure than to be gently lifted up and down ; the 
manner of playing which their nurses use with 
children, and the weighing and swinging used af- 
terwards by themselves as a favourite amusement, 
evince this very sufficiently. Most people must 
have observed the sort of sense they have had, on 
being swiftly drawn in an easy coach on a smooth 


Variation, why Beautiful. 

turf, with gradual ascents and declivities. This 
will give a better idea of the beautiful, and point 
out its probable cause, better than almost anything 
else. On the contrary, when one is hurried over 
a rough, rocky, broken road, the pain felt by these 
sudden inequalities shows why similar sights, feel- 
ings, and sounds, are so contrary to beauty : and 
with regard to the feeling, it is exactly the same 
in its effect, or very nearly the same, whether, for 
instance, I move my hand along the surface of a 
body of a certain shape, or whether such a body is 
moved along my hand. But to bring this analogy 
of the senses home to the eye ; if a body presented 
to that sense has such a waving surface, that the 
rays of light reflected from it are in a continual in- 
sensible deviation from the strongest to the weakest 
(which is always the case in a surface gradually 
unequal), it must be exactly similar in its effect on 
the eye and touch ; upon the one of which it ope- 
rates directly, on the other indirectly. And this 
body will be beautiful if the lines which compose 
its surface are not continued, even so varied, in a 
manner that may weary or dissipate the attention. 
The variation itself must be continually varied. 

AND beai:tiful. 231 

Concerning Smallness. 



TO avoid a sameness, which may arise from the 
too frequent repetition of the same reasonings, and 
of illustrations of the same nature, I will not enter 
very minutely into every particular that regards 
beauty, as it is founded on the disposition of its 
quantity, or its quantity itself. In speaking of the 
magnitude of bodies there is great uncertainty, be- 
cause the ideas of great and small are terms almost 
entirely relative to the species of the objects, which 
are infinite. It is true, that having once fixed the 
species of any object, and the dimensions common 
in the individuals of that species, we may observe 
some that exceed, and some that fall short of, the 
ordinary standard : those which greatly exceed, 
are by that excess, provided the species itself be 
not very small, rather great and terrible than beau- 
tiful ; but as in the animal world, and in a good 
measure in the vegetable world likewise, the qua- 
lities that constitute beauty may possibly be united 
to things of greater dimensions ; when they are so 
united, they constitute a species something diffe- 


Conceruing Smallness. 

rent both from the sublime and beautiful, which I 
have before called ^?ie; but this kind, I imagine, 
has not such a power on the passions, either as vast 
bodies have which are endued with the correspon- 
dent qualities of the sublime ; or as the qualities 
of beauty have when united in a small object. The 
affection produced by large bodies adorned with 
the spoils of beauty, is a tension continually re- 
lieved ; which approaches to the nature of medio- 
crity. But if I v/ere to say how I find myself 
affected upon such occasions, I should say, that 
the sublime suffers less by being united to some 
of the qualities of beauty, than beauty does by 
being joined to greatness of quantity, or any other 
properties of the sublime. There is something so 
over-ruling in whatever inspires us with awe, in all 
things which belong ever so remotely to terror, 
that nothing else can stand in their presence. 
There lie the qualities of beauty either dead and 
unoperative ; or at most exerted to mollify the 
rigour and sternness of the terror, which is the 
natural concomitant of greatness. Besides the ex- 
traordinary great in every species, the opposite to 
this, the dwarfish and diminutive, ought to be con- 
sidered. Littleness, merely as such, has nothing 


Concerning Smallness. 

contrary to the idea of beauty. The hummingbird, 
both in shape and colouring, yield to none of the 
winged species, of which it is the least ; and per- 
haps his beauty is enhanced by his smallness. But 
there are animals, which, when they are extremely 
small, are rarely, if ever, beautiful. There is a 
dwarfish size of men and women, which is almost 
constantly so gross and massive in comparison of 
their height, that they present us with a very dis- 
agreeable image. But should a man be found not 
above two or three feet high, supposing such a per- 
son to have all the parts of his body of a delicacy 
suitable to such a size, and otherwise endued with 
the common qualities of other beautiful bodies, I 
am pretty well convinced that a person of sucl^a 
stature might be considered as beautiful : might be 
the object of love ; might give us very pleasing 
ideas on viewing him. The only thing which could 
possibly interpose to check our pleasure is, that 
such creatures, however formed, are unusual, and 
are often therefore considered as something mon- 
strous. The large and gigantic, though very com- 
patible with the sublime, is contrary to the beau- 
tiful. It is impossible to suppose a giant the ob- 
ject of love. When we let our imagination loose 


Concerning Smallness. 

in romance, the ideas we naturally annex to that 
size are those of tyranny, cruelty, injustice, and 
everything horrid and abominable. We paint the 
giant ravaging the country, plundering the inno- 
cent traveller, and afterwards gorged with his half- 
living flesh : such are Polyphemus, Cacus, and 
others, who make so great a figure in romances 
and heroic poems. The event we attend to with 
the greatest satisfaction is their defeat and death. 
I do not remember, in all that multitude of deaths 
with which the Iliad is filled, that the fall of any 
man remarkable for his great stature and strength 
touches us with pity ; nor does it appear that the 
author, so well read in human nature, ever in- 
tended it should. It is Simoisius, in the soft 
bloom of youth, torn from his parents, who trem- 
ble for a courage so ill suited to his strength ; it is 
another hurried by war from the new embraces of 
his bride, young, and fair, and a novice to the 
field, who melts us by his untimely fate. Achilles, 
in spite of the many qualities of beauty, which 
Homer has bestowed on his outward form, and the 
many great virtues with which he has adorned his 
mind, can never make us love him. It may be 
observed, that Homer has given the Trojans, whose 


Concerning SraaJlness. 

fate he has designed to excite our compassion, in- 
finitely more of the amiable social virtues than he 
has distributed among his Greeks. With regard 
to the Trojans, the passion he chooses to raise is 
pity ; pity is a passion founded on love ; and these 
lesseif and if I may say domestic virtues, are cer- 
tainly the most amiable. But he has made the 
Greeks far their superiors in politic and military 
virtues. The councils of Priam are weak; the 
arms of Hector comparatively feeble ; his courage 
far below that of Achilles. Yet we love Priam 
more than Agamemnon, and Hector more than his 
conqueror Achilles. Admiration is the passion 
which Homer would excite in favour of the Greeks, 
and he has done it by bestowing on them the vir- 
tues which have but little to do with love. This 
short digression is perhaps not wholly beside our 
purpose, where our business is to show that ob- 
jects of great dimensions are incompatible with 
beauty, the more incompatible as they are greater ; 
whereas the small, if ever they fail of beauty, this 
failure is not to be attributed to their size. 


Of Colour. 



WITH regard to colour, the disquisition is almost 
infinite ; but I conceive the principles laid down in 
the beginning of this part are sufficient to account 
for the effects of them all, as well as for the agree- 
able effects of transparent bodies, whether fluid or 
solid. Suppose I look at a bottle of muddy liquor, 
of a blue or red colour : the blue or red rays can- 
pot pass clearly to the eye, but are suddenly and un- 
equally stopped by the intervention of little opaque 
bodies, which without preparation change the idea, 
and change it too into one disagreeable in its own 
nature, conformable to the principles laid down in 
Sect. 24. But when the ray passes without such 
opposition through the glass or liquor, when the 
glass or liquor are quite transparent^ the light is 
something softened in the passage, which makes it 
more agreeable even as light ; and the liquor re- 
flecting all the rays of its proper colour evenly, it 
has such an effect on the eye, as smooth opaque 
bodies have on the eye and touch. So that the 
pleasure here is compounded of the softness of the 


Of Colour. 

transmitted and the evenness of the reflected light. 
This pleasure may be heightened by the common 
principles in other things, if the shape of the glass 
which holds the transparent liquor be so judiciously 
varied, as to present the colour gradually and in- 
terchangeably weakened and strengthened with all 
the variety which judgment in affairs of this nature 
shall suggest. On a review of all that has been 
said of the effects, as well as the causes of both, 
it will appear, that the sublime and beautiful are 
built on principles very different, and that their 
affections are as different : the great has terror for 
its basis ; which, when it is modified, causes that 
emotion in the mind, which I have called asto- 
nishment ; the beautiful is founded on mere posi- 
tive pleasure, and excites in the soul that feeling, 
which is called love. Their causes have made the 
subject of this fourth part. 










NATXJIIAL objects affect us, by the laws of 
that connexion which Providence has established 
between certain motions and configurations of bo- 
dies, and certain consequent feelings in our mind. 
Painting affects in the same manner, but with the 
superadded pleasure of imitation. Architecture 
affects by the laws of nature, and the law of reason; 
from which latter result the rules of proportion, 
which make a work to be praised or censured, in 
the whole or in some part, when the end for which 
it was designed is or is not properly answered. 


The common effect of Poetry, not by raising ideas of things. 

But as to words ; they seem to me to affect us in 
a maimer very different from that in which we are 
affected by natural objects, or by painting or ar- 
chitecture ; yet words have as considerable a share 
in exciting ideas of beauty and of the sublime as 
any of those, and sometimes a much greater than 
any of them ; therefore an inquiry into the manner 
by which they excite such emotions is far from 
being unnecessary in a discourse of this kind. 



THE common notion of the power of poetry and 
eloquence, as well as that of words in ordinary 
conversation, is, that they affect the mind by rais- 
ing in it ideas of those things for which custom 
has appointed them to stand. To examine the 
truth of this notion, it may be requisite to observe 
that words may be divided into three sorts. The 
first are such as represent many simple ideas 
united hy nature to form some one determinate com- 
position, as man, horse, tree, castle, &c. These I 
call aggregate w(yrds. The second, are they that 


The common effect of Poetry, not by raising ideas of things. 

stand for one simple idea of such compositions, 
and no more ; as red, blue, round, square, and tlie 
like. These I call simple abstract words. The 
third, are those, which are formed by an union, an 
arbitrary union, of both the others, and of the vari- 
ous relations between them in greater or lesser de- 
grees of complexity; as, virtue, honour, persuasion, 
magistrate, and the like. These 1 call compound 
abstract words. Words, I am sensible, are capa- 
ble of being classed into more curious distinctions ; 
but these seem to be natural, and enough for our 
purpose ; and they are disposed in that order in 
which they are commonly taught, and in which the 
mind gets the ideas they are substituted for. I shall 
begin with the third sort of words ; compound ab- 
stracts, such as virtue, honour, persuasion, docilit)'. 
Of these I am convinced, that whatever power 
they may have on the passions, they do not derive 
it from any representation raised in the mind of the 
things for which they stand. As compositions, 
they are not real essences, and hardly cause, I 
think, any real ideas. Nobody, I believe, imme- 
diately on hearing the sounds, virtue, liberty, or 
honour, conceives any precise notions of the parti- 
cular modes of action and thinking, together with 


The common effect of Poetry, not by raising ideas of things. 

the mixed and simple ideas, and the several rela- 
tions of them for which these words are substituted ; 
neither has he any general idea, compounded of 
them ; for if he had, then some of those particular 
ones, though indistinct perhaps, and confused, 
might come soon to be perceived. But this, I take 
it, is hardly ever the case. For, put yourself upon 
analysing one of these words, and you must reduce 
it from one set of general words to another, and 
then into the simple abstracts and aggregates, in a 
much longer series than may be at first imagined, 
before any real idea emerges to light, before you 
come to discover anything like the first principles 
of such compositions; and when you have made 
such a discovery of the original ideas, the effect of 
the composition is utterly lost. A train of think- 
ing of this sort, is much too long to be pursued in 
the ordinary ways of conversation, nor is it at all 
necessary that it should. Such words are in rea- 
lity but mere sounds ; but they are sounds which 
being used on particular occasions, wherein we 
receive some good, or suffer some evil; or see 
others affected with good or evil ; or which we 
hear applied to other interesting things or events ; 
and being applied in such a variety of cases, that 


General Words before ideas. 

we know readily by habit to what things they be- 
long, they produce in the mind, whenever they are 
afterwards mentioned, effects similar to those of 
their occasions. The sounds being often used 
without reference to any particular occasion, and 
carrying still their first impressions, they at last 
utterly lose their connexion with the particular 
occasions that gave rise to them; yet the sound, 
without any annexed notion, continues to operate 
as before. 



MR. LOCKE has somewhere observed, with his 
usual sagacity, that most general words, those be- 
longing to virtue and vice, good and evil, espe- 
cially, are taught before the particular modes of 
action to which they belong are presented to the 
mind ; and with them, the love of the one, and the 
abhorrence of the other ; for the minds of children 
are so ductile, that a nurse, or any person about a 
child, by seeming pleased or displeased with any- 
thing, or even any word, may give the disposition 
of the child a similar turn. When afterwards, the 


General Words before ideas. 

several occurrences in life come to be applied to 
these words, and that which is pleasant often ap- 
pears under the name of evil; and what is dis- 
agreeable to nature is called good and virtuous ; a 
strange confusion of ideas and affections arises in 
the minds of many ; and an appearance of no small 
contradiction between their notions and their ac- 
tions. There are many who love virtue and who 
detest vice, and this not from hypocrisy or affecta- 
tion, who notwithstanding very frequently act ill 
and wickedly in particulars without the least re- 
morse ; because these particular occasions never 
came into view, when the passions on the side of 
virtue were so warmly affected by certain words 
heated originally by the breath of others ; and for 
this reason, it is hard to repeat certain sets of 
words, though owned by themselves unoperative, 
without being in some degree affected, especially 
if a warm and affecting tone of voice accompanies 
them, as suppose. 

Wise, valiant, generous, good, and great. 

These words, by having no application, ought to 
be unoperative ; but when words commonly sacred 
to great occasions are used, we are affected by 


The Effect of Words. 

them even without the occasions. When words 
which have been generally so applied are put 
together without any rational view, or in such 
manner that they do not rightly agree with each 
other, the style is called bombast. And it re- 
quires in several cases much good sense and ex- 
perience to be guarded against the force of such 
language ; for when propriety is neglected, a 
greater number of these atFecting words may be 
taken into the service, and a greater variety may be 
indulged in combining them. 



IF words have all their possible extent of power, 
three effects arise in the mind of the hearer. The 
first is, the sound; the second, the picture, or repre- 
sentation of the thing signified by the sound : the 
third is, the affection of the soul produced by one 
or by both of the foregoing. Compounded abstract 
words, of which we have been speaking (honour, 
justice, liberty, and the like), produce the first and 
the last of these effects, but not the second. 
Simple abstracts are used to signify some one 


The Effect of Words. 

simple idea without much adverting to others which 
may chance to attend it, as blue, green, hot, cold, 
and the like ; these are capable of affecting all 
three of the purposes of words ; as the aggregate 
words, man, castle, horse, ^c. are in a yet higher 
degree. But I am of opinion, that the most 
general effect even of these words, does not arise 
from their forming pictures of the several things 
they would represent in the imagination ; because, 
on a very diligent examination of my own mind, 
and getting others to consider theirs, I do not find 
that once in twenty times any such picture is 
formed, and when it is, there is most commonly 
a particular effort of the imagination for that pur- 
pose. But the aggregate words operate, as I 
said of the compound abstracts, not by presenting 
any image to the mind, but by having from use 
the same effect on being mentioned, that their 
original has when it is seen. Suppose we were 
to read a passage to this effect: "The river 
Danube rises in a moist and mountainous soil in 
the heart of Germany, where, winding to and fro, 
it waters several principalities, until, turning into 
Austria, and laving the walls of Vienna, it passes 
into Hungary ; there, with a vast flood, augmented 


Examples that Words may affect without raising images. 

by the Saave and the Drave, it quits Christeudoni, 
and rolling through the barbarous countries which 
border on Tartary, it enters by many mouths into 
the Black Sea." In this description many things 
are mentioned, as mountains, rivers, cities, the 
sea, <fcc. But let anybody examine himself, and 
see whether he has had impressed on his imagi- 
nation any pictures of a river, mountain, watery 
soil, Germany, &c. Indeed it is impossible, in 
the rapidity and quick succession of words in 
conversation, to have ideas both of the sound of 
the word, and of the thing represented ; besides, 
some words, expressing real essences, are so 
mixed with others of a general and nominal import, 
that it is impracticable to jump from sense to 
thought, from particulars to generals, from things 
to words, in such a manner as to answer the pur- 
poses of life ; nor is it necessary that we should. 



I FIND it very hard to persuade several that 
their passions are affected by words from whence 


Examples that Words may affect without raising images. 

they have no ideas ; and yet harder to convince 
them, that in the ordinary course of conversation 
we are sufficiently understood without raising any 
images of the things concerning which we speak. 
It seems to be an odd subject of dispute with any 
man, whether he has ideas in his mind or not. Of 
this, at first view, every man, in his own forum, 
ought to judge without appeal. But, strange as it 
may appear, we are often at a loss to know what 
ideas we have of things, or whether we have any 
ideas at all upon some subjects. It even requires 
a good deal of attention to be thoroughly satisfied 
on this head. Since I wrote these papers, I 
found two very striking instances of the possi- 
bility there is, that a man may hear words without 
having any idea of the things which they represent, 
and yet afterwards be capable of returning them 
to others, combined in a new way, and with great 
propriety, energy, and instruction. The first in- 
stance, is that of Mr. Blacklock, a poet blind 
from his birth. Few men blessed with the most 
perfect sight can describe visual objects with 
more spirit and justness than this blind man ; 
which cannot possibly be attributed to his having 
a clearer conception of the things he describes 


Examples that Words may affect without raisiug images. 

than is common to other persons. Mr. Spence, in 
an elegant preface which he has written to the 
works of this poet, reasons very ingeniously, and, 
I imagine, for the most part, very rightly, upon 
the cause of this extraordinary phenomenon ; but 
I cannot altogether agree with him, that some 
improprieties in language and thought, which 
occur in these poems, have arisen from the blind 
poet's imperfect conception of visual objects, since 
such improprieties, and much greater, may be 
found in writers even of a higher class than Mr. 
Blacklock, and who notwithstanding possessed the 
faculty of seeing in its full perfection. Here is a 
poet doubtless as much affected by his own de- 
scriptions as any that reads them can be ; and yet 
he is affected with this strong enthusiasm by things 
of which he neither has, nor can possibly have 
any idea further than that of a bare sound : and 
why may not those who read his works be affected 
in the same manner that he was; with as little of 
any real ideas of the things described? The 
second instance is of Mr. Saunderson, professor 
of the mathematics in the University of Cam- 
bridge. This learned man had acquired great 
knowledge in natural philosophy, in astronomy. 


Examples that Words may affect without raising images. 

and whatever sciences depend upon mathematical 
skill. What was the most extraordinary and the 
most to my purpose, he gave excellent lectures 
upon light and colours ; and this man taught others 
the theory of those ideas which they had, and 
which he himself undoubtedly had not. But it is 
probable that the words red, blue, green, answered 
to him as well as the ideas of the colours them- 
selves ; for the ideas of greater or lesser degrees 
of refrangibility being applied to these words, and 
the blind man being instructed in what other 
respects they were found to agree or to disagree, it 
was as easy for him to reason upon the words, 
as if he had been fully master of the ideas. Indeed 
it must be owned he could make no new disco- 
veries in the way of experiment. He did nothing 
but what we do every day in common discourse. 
When I wrote this last sentence, and used the 
words every day and common discourse, I had no 
images in my mind of any succession of tim e ; 
nor of men in conference with each other; nor do 
I imagine that the reader will have any such ideas 
on reading it. Neither when I spoke of red, or 
blue and green, as well as the refrangibility, had 1 
these several colours, or the rays of light passing 


Examples that Words may affect without raisiug images. 

into a different medium, and there diverted from 
their course, painted before me in the way of 
images. I know very well that the mind possesses 
a faculty of raising such images at pleasure; but 
then an act of the will is necessary to this ; and 
in ordinary conversation or reading it is very rarely 
that any image at all is excited in the mind. If I 
say ** I shall go to Italy next summer," I am well 
understood. Yet I believe nobody has by this 
painted in his imagination the exact figure of the 
speaker passing by land or by water, or both; 
sometimes on horseback, sometimes in a carriage ; 
with all the particulars of the journey. Still less has 
he any idea of Italy, the country to which I pro- 
posed to go ; or of the greenness of the fields, the 
ripening of the fruits, and the warmth of the air, with 
the change to this from a different season, which are 
the ideas for which the word summer is substituted : 
but least of all has he any image from the word 
next ; for this word stands for the idea of many 
summers, with the exclusion of all but one : and 
surely the man who says next summer, has no ima- 
ges of such a succession, and such an exclusion. 
In short it is not only of those ideas which are 
commonly called abstract, and of which no image 


Examples that Words may affect without raising images. 

at all can be formed, but even of particular real 
beings, that we converse without having any idea 
of them excited in the imagination ; as will certainly 
appear on a diligent examination of our own minds. 
Indeed, so little does poetry depend for its effect 
on the power of raising sensible images, that I am 
convinced it would lose a very considerable part 
of its energy if this were the necessary result of all 
description. Because that union of affecting words, 
which is the most powerful of all poetical instru- 
ments, would frequently lose its force, along with 
its propriety and consistency, if the sensible ima- 
ges were always excited. There is not perhaps in 
the whole Eneid a more grand and laboured pas- 
sage than the description of Vulcan's cavern in 
Etna, and the works that are there carried on. 
Virgil dwells particularly on the formation of the 
thunder, which he describes unfinished under the 
hammers of the Cyclops. But what are the prin- 
ciples of this extraordinary composition ? 

Tres imbris torti radios, tres nubis aquosce 
Addiderant; rutili tres ignis, et alitis austri; 
Fulgores nunc, terrificos, sonitumque, metumque 
Miscebant operi, Jiammisqiie seqnacibits iras. 


Examples that Words may affect without raising images. 

This seems to me admirably sublime ; yet if we 
attend coolly to the kind of sensible image which a 
combination of ideas of this sort must fonn, the 
chimeras of madmen cannot appear more wild and 
absurd than such a picture. " Three rays of twisted 
*' showers, three of watery clouds, three of fire, and 
** three of the winged south wind; then mixed they 
*' in the work terrific lightenings, and sound and fear, 
'^ and angei, with pursuing flames." This strange 
composition is formed into a gross body ; it is 
hammered by the Cyclops, it is in part polished, 
and partly continues rough. The truth is, if poetry 
gives us a noble assemblage of words correspond- 
ing to many noble ideas, which are connected by 
circumstances of time Or place, or related to each 
other as cause and effect, or associated in any na- 
tural way, they may be moulded together in any 
form, and perfectly answer their end. The pictu- 
resque connection is not demanded ; because no 
real picture is formed ; nor is the effect of the de- 
scription at all the less upon this account. What 
is said of Helen by Priam and the old men of his 
council, is generally thought to give us the highest 
possible idea of that fatal beauty. 


Examples that Words may affect without raising images. 

Ou vef/,S(rig T^coug xai suKvnixi^ag Ax<xiovg, 

Toiri S' afji,(pi yvvaiHi ttoXvv x^^vov ccXysa 7raa"%eiV 

Aivcog §' aOccvccTOKTi Qsvg sig uttcc soifcsv. 

They ciy'dy No wonder such celestial charm& 
For nine long years have set the world in arms ; 
What winning graces! what majestic mien! 
She moves a goddess, and she looks a queen. 


Here is not one word said of the particulars of her 
beauty ; nothing which can in the least help us to 
any precise idea of her person ; but yet we are 
much more touched by this manner of mentioning 
her than by those long and laboured descriptions 
of Helen, whether handed down by tradition, or 
formed by fancy, which are to be met with in some 
authors. I am sure it affects me much more than 
the minute description which Spenser has given of 
Belphebe ; though I own that there are parts in 
that description, as there are in all the descriptions 
of that excellent writer, extremely fine and poetical. 
The terrible picture which Lucretius has drawn of 
religion, in order to display the magnanimity of his 


Examples that Words may affect without raising images. 

philosophical hero in opposing her, is thought to 
be designed with great boldness and spirit; 

Humana ante oculosfoede cum vitajaceret, 
In terris, oppressa gravi sub religione, 
Qtice caput e cceli regionilnts ostendebat 
Horribili super aspectu mortalibus instans ; 
Pnmus Grains homo mortales tollere contra 
Est oculos ausus. ~ - 

What idea do you derive from so excellent a pic- 
ture ? none at all, most certainly ; neither has the 
poet said a single word which might in the least 
serve to mark a single limb or feature of the phan- 
tom, which he intended to represent in all the 
horrors imagination can conceive. In reality, 
poetry and rhetoric do not succeed in exact de- 
scription so well as painting does ; their business 
is, to affect rather by sympathy than imitation ; to 
display rather the effect of things on the mind of 
the speaker, or of others, than to present a clear 
idea of the things themselves. This is their most 
extensive province, and that in which they succeed 
the best. 


Poetry not strictly an iraiJative art. How Words influence the Passions. 



HENCE we may observe that poetry, taken in its 
most general sense, cannot with strict propriety 
be called an art of imitation. It is indeed an imi- 
tation so far as it describes the manners and pas- 
sions of men which their words can express ; where 
aninii motus effert interprete lingua. There it is 
strictly imitation ; and all merely dramatic poetry 
is of this sort. But descriptive poetry operates 
chiefly by substitution ; by the means of sounds, 
which by custom have the effect of realities. No- 
thing is an imitation further than as it resembles 
some other thing; and words undoubtedly have no 
sort of resemblance to the ideas for which they 



NOW, as words affect, not by any original power, 
but by representation, it might be supposed, that 
their influence over the passions should be but 


How Words influence tbe Passions. 

light ; yet it is quite otherwise ; for we find by ex- 
perience, that eloquence and poetry are as capable, 
nay indeed much more capable, of making deep and 
lively impressions than any other arts, and even 
than nature itself in very many cases. And this 
arises chiefly from these three causes. First, that we 
take an extraordinary part in the passions of others, 
and that we are easily affected and brought into 
sympathy by any tokens which are shewn of them ; 
and there are no tokens which can express all the 
circumstances of most passions so fully as words ; 
so that if a person speaks upon any subject, he can 
not only convey the subject to you, but likewise 
the manner in which he is himself affected by it. 
Certain it is, that the influence of most things on 
our passions is not so much from the things tliem- 
selves, as from our opinions concerning them ; and 
these again depend very much on the opinions of 
other men, conveyable for the most part by words 
only. Secondly, there are many things of a very 
affecting nature, which can seldom occur in the 
reality, but the words whicJ> represent them often 
do ; and thus they have an opportunity of making 
a deep impression and taking root in the mind^ 


How Words influence the Passions. 

whilst the idea of the reality was transient; and to 
some perhaps never really occured in any shape, 
to whom it is notwithstanding very affecting, as ' 
war, death, famine, &c. Besides many ideas have 
never been at all presented to the senses of any 
men but by words, as God, angels, devils, heaven, 
and hell, all of which have however a great influ- 
ence over the passions. Thirdly, by words we 
have it in our power to make such combinations as 
we cannot possibly do otherwise. By this power 
of combining we are able, by the addition of well- 
chosen circumstances, to give a new life and force 
to the simple object. In painting we may represent 
any fine figure we please ; but We never can give 
it those enlivening touches which it may receive 
from words. To represent an angel in a picture, 
you can only draw a beautiful young man winged : 
but what painting can furnish out any thing so 
grand as the addition of one word, *' the angel of 
the Loi'd?^' It is true, I have here no clear idea; 
but these words affect the mind more than the sen- 
sible image did ; which is all I contend for. A 
picture of Priam dragged to the altar's foot, and 
there murdered, if it were well executed, would 
undoubtedly be very moving ; but there are very 


How Words influence the Passions. 

aggravating circumstances, which it could never 
represent : 

Sanguine foedanteni quos ipse sacraverat ignes. 

As a farther instance, let us consider those lines 
of Milton, where he describes the travels of the fal- 
len angels through their dismal habitation : 

— O'er many a dark and dreary vale 

They pass'd, and many a region dolorous ; 

O^er many a frozen, many ajiety Alp ; 

Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens, and shades of 

A universe of death . [death . 

Here is displayed the force of union in 

Rocks, caves, lakes, dens, bogs, fens, and shades ; 

which yet would lose the greatest part of their ef- 
fect, if they were not the 

Rocks, caves, lakes, dens, bogs, fens, and shades — 
of Death. 

This idea or this affection caused by a word, which 
nothing but a word could annex lo the others, 
raises a very great degree of the sublime ; and this 
sublime is raised yet higher by what follows, " a 


How Words influence the Passions. 

universe of Death.^' Here are again two ideas 
not presentable but by language ; and an union of 
them great and amazing beyond conception ; if 
they may properly be called ideas which present 
no distinct image to the mind : — but still it will be 
difficult to conceive how words can move the pas- 
sions which belong to real objects, without repre- 
senting these objects clearly. This is difficult to 
us, because we do not sufficiently distinguish, in 
our observations upon language, between a clear 
expression, and a strong expression. These are 
frequently confounded with each other, though 
they are in reality extremely different. The former 
regards the understanding; the latter belongs to 
the passions. The one describes a thing as it is ; 
th^ other describes it as it is felt. Now, as there 
is a moving tone of voice, an impassioned counte- 
nance, an agitated gesture, which affect indepen- 
dently of the things about which they are exerted, so 
there are words, and certain dispositions of words, 
which being peculiarly devoted to passionate sub- 
jects, and always used by those who are under the 
influence of any passion, touch and move us more 
than those which far more clearly and distinctly 
express the subject matter. We yield to sympa- 


How Words influence the Passions. 

thy what we refuse to description. The truth is, 
all verbal description, merely as naked description, 
though never so exact, conveys so poor and insuf- 
ficient an idea of the thing described, that it could 
scarcely have the smallest effect, if the speaker did 
not call in to his aid those modes of speech that 
mark a strong and lively feeling in himself. Then, 
by the contagion of our passions, we catch a fire 
already kindled in another, which probably might 
never have been struck out by the object described. 
Words, by strongly conveying the passions, by 
those means which we have already mentioned, 
fully compensate for their weakness in other re- 
spects. . It may be observed, that very polished 
languages, and such as are praised for their supe- 
rior clearness and perspicuity, are generally defi- 
cient in strength. The French language has that 
perfection and that defect. Whereas the oriental 
tongues, and in general the languages of most 
unpolished people, have a great force and energy 
of expression ; and this is but natural. Unculti- 
vated people are but ordinary observers of things, 
and not critical in distinguishing them ; but, for 
that reason, they admire more, and are more 
affected with what they see, and therefore ex- 


How Words influence the Passions, 

press themselves in a warmer and more passionate 
manner. If the affection be well conveyed, it will 
work its effect without any clear idea; often 
without any idea at all of the thing which has 
originally given rise to it. 

It might be expected from the fertility of the 
subject, that I should consider poetry as it regards 
the subhme and beautiful more at large; but it 
must be observed that in this light it has been often 
and well handled already. It was not my design 
to enter into the criticism of the sublime and beau- 
tiful in any art, but to attempt to lay down such 
principles as may tend to ascertain, to distinguish, 
and to form a sort of standard for them; which 
purposes I thought might be best effected by an 
inquiry into the properties of such things in nature, 
as raise love and astonishment in us ; and by 
showing in what manner they operated to produce 
these passions. Words were only so far to be con- 
sidered, as to show upon what principle they were 
capable of being the representatives of these natu- 
ral things, and by what powers they were able to 
affect us often as strongly as the things they re- 
present, and sometimes much more strongly. 



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